A new, hotly contested voter identification law in Pennsylvania got the go-ahead from a judge on Wednesday in a sign of how fierce Republicans and Democrats are battling for the state in the presidential election.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson denied a request for an injunction to block the law which would require voters to show a photo ID before voting. The law, written by Republicans and signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, passed the state legislature over the objections of all Democratic legislators who argued the law would make it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and others to vote. The new law replaced a previous version that allowed non-photo identification such as a utility bill.
An appeal to the state Supreme Court is expected within days.
"It's why they make appeals courts," said Witold J. Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who had argued for the injunction.
But Corbett issued a statement praising the decision.
"Now that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law, we can continue to focus our attention on ensuring that every Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote has the identification necessary to make sure their vote counts," Corbett said.
Lawyers arguing for the state acknowledged they were unaware of any incidents of voter fraud - the problem the law was intended to address - and indeed Simpson did not rule on the merits of the law, only the injunction request.
The Justice Department is considering whether the new Pennsylvania law complies with federal election law.
In his ruling Wednesday, Simpson said he saw no evidence that "disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable." He also noted that the state plans a public relations effort to inform voters about the new law and help them obtain a photo ID. He said he believed state officials planned to implement the law "in a non-partisan, even-handed manner."
by RTT Staff Writer
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