A judge ruled today that Pennsylvania's tough new Voter ID Law should be put on hold until after the Nov. 6 general election, according to an Associated Press report.
The ruling can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which said it would expedite any further action in the case since Election Day is just five weeks away.
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Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson heard two days of testimony last week, as directed by the Supreme Court, to determine whether the state has made it easy enough to get a photo ID in order to vote.
Opponents say the law, and the process to get an ID, disenfranchises voters. Supporters say the law will prevent voter fraud - but that justification sparked controversy when GOP state Rep. Mike Turzai said the law will allow Gov. Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania.
Some political analysts called the voter fraud prevention argument "a sham."
Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him days ago by the high court justices. He ordered the state not to enforce the photo ID requirement in this year's presidential election but will allow it to go into full effect next year.
One lawyer for the plaintiffs said it appeared to be a "win." Election workers will still be allowed to ask voters for a valid photo ID, but people without it can vote on a regular voting machine in the polling place and would not have to cast a provisional ballot or prove their identity to election officials after the election, according to this Huffington Post report.
A wave of new voter identification requirements has been approved in the past couple years, primarily by Republican-controlled Legislatures.
- The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law in 2008
- Georgia's top court upheld that state's voter ID law
- A federal court panel struck down Texas' voter ID law
- The state court in Wisconsin has blocked its voter ID laws for now.
- The Justice Department cleared New Hampshire's voter ID law earlier this year
- A federal court is reviewing South Carolina's law
In Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs – a group of registered voters including a 90-year-old Doylestown woman, plus the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – sought to block the law from taking effect in this year's election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality.
The constitutionality of the law was not a question before Simpson.
Rather, the state Supreme Court ordered Simpson to stop the law if he thought anyone eligible would be unable to cast a ballot because of it or if he found the state had not complied with law's promise of providing liberal access to a photo ID that voters were required to show on Election Day.
Tuesday, Oct. 9, is the last day for Pennsylvanians to register to vote in the general election.
Simpson, of Nazareth, is a former Northampton County judge.