Judge bars Pennsylvania voter ID law until 2013 (+video)
It's expected that supporters of the state's voter ID law will appeal this decision to the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court.
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The voter ID law was a signature accomplishment of Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature and its Republican governor, Tom Corbett. Republicans, long suspicious of ballot-box stuffing in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia, justified it as a bulwark against any potential election fraud.Skip to next paragraph
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Democrats objected furiously, accusing Republicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House from Obama by making it harder for young adults, the poor, minorities and the disabled to vote.
Protests, warnings of Election Day chaos and voter education drives ensued, as the law's opponents began collecting stories of people who had no valid photo ID and had encountered stiff barriers in their efforts to get one from state driver's license centers.
It was already a political lightning rod when a top state Republican lawmaker boasted to a GOP dinner in June that the ID requirement "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
A wave of new voter identification requirements have 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, and Georgia's top court upheld that state's voter ID law. But a federal court panel struck down Texas' voter ID law, and 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, and a federal court is reviewing South Carolina's law.
The plaintiffs — a group of registered voters, 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 — had 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 had ordered him 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 carry on Election Day.
Last week, the Corbett administration overhauled the process for getting a voting-only ID card — an admission that the state had not met the Supreme Court's test for the whether the law should stand.