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Pennsylvania voter ID law suspended for primary election

Lawyers for Pennsylvania and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Friday reached an accord allowing state residents to vote in upcoming primary and special elections without submitting identification. According to media sources, voters will be asked to present ID [Bloomberg report], but may decline to do so. The temporary agreement extends an October ruling [JURIST report] by a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] judge enjoining enforcement of the state's voter ID law [HB 943 materials] for November's presidential election. Supporters of the proposed legislation say that it will combat voter fraud, but opponents fear that it will disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters who may find it difficult to obtain a photo ID. According to sources, the law has the potential to exclude nearly 800,000 eligible voters. The lawsuit is set to go to trial on July 15.

Voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] remain a contentious issue in the US. The ACLU challenged the law [petition for review, PDF; JURIST report] in May, asking a court to block enforcement of the law for the November elections. The group claimed that the law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution [text] and will prevent eligible voters from casting their votes. Pennsylvania Governor Corbett signed the bill into law [JURIST report] in March. It was passed earlier that week in the House of Representatives by a vote of 104-88. In November, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the decision [JURIST reports] of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upholding the state's new voter identification law and remanded for further consideration. Unlike the current trend of voter ID laws, Pennsylvania's allows voters to vote without an ID as long as they verify their identity within six days of voting. Absentee ballots will also only require identification by Social Security number. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial.

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