Bedford County Elections Director Peg Koenig has been worried about how the state's voter identification law would affect local farmers who typically hop off their tractors and head to vote.
"I think they would have headed off to the polls without their IDs," Koenig said Tuesday afternoon. "But I don't have to worry about them now. Not unless another court says otherwise."
In a ruling issued Tuesday morning, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the photo ID requirement in this year's presidential election. Instead, the phase-in period of the state's 6-month-old law will continue until next year, when every voter will be required to show a valid photo ID when casting a ballot.
Simpson, who declined earlier this year to stop the law after a hearing where critics said it would disenfranchise voters, said he expected more voter IDs would have been issued by now.
"For this reason, I accept petitioners' arguments that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed," he wrote.
State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, who supports the law, said he was disappointed with the decision.
"It will allow people who are going to cheat, an avenue to cheat," Eichelberger said. "The good news is that it appears that the law will be in place, that it will be finalized at some point in the future. It doesn't say anything about it being unconstitutional."
State Sen. John N. Wozniak, D-Cambria, issued a statement praising Simpson's ruling and criticizing the Gov. Tom Corbett administration for its push to have the legislation in place to influence the November presidential election, an accusation Republicans have denied. Wozniak also criticized the related confusion and expense, which he estimated at $6 million.
"Haste makes waste. That's the lesson the administration should take from this," Wozniak said.
Blair County Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Rosenhoover said he thinks the judge's ruling relieves the anxiety that has been developing.
"His ruling will make a difference because there are people in Blair County who don't have a valid voter ID," Rosenhoover said. "Ones who don't drive, who don't have vehicles. I think it truly is going to relieve the anxiety they had."
Blair County Republican Committee Chairman A.C. Stickel said his group has been assisting voters in securing photo IDs in preparation for the election and will continue that effort.
"We're disappointed with the judge's ruling because we think it's a reasonable and legitimate law," he said.
Blair County Elections Director Ingrid Healy-Tucker said Tuesday that those who staff the election precincts will probably be trained to ask voters on Nov. 6 to show a photo ID, so they and the voters can become more familiar with what could be coming in next year's elections.
The Department of State, which oversees elections, is expected to provide some directions to all counties, based on the judicial ruling.
"Whatever they say, we'll do," Blair County Commissioner Ted Beam said.
Huntingdon County Director of Elections Lori Sheffield said Tuesday that she has time to wait for further instructions from the state. Training for those who staff the precincts is scheduled in late October.
"It will probably be like it was for the primary, and the majority of our voters had IDs when we asked for them in the primary," Sheffield said. "Those who didn't, received a handout."
The handout, she said, described acceptable forms of photo identification cards for voting.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray contributed to this story.