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Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Blocked

A Pennsylvania judge has ordered state officials not to enforce the commonwealth’s new voter ID law in the upcoming election.  As a result, Pennsylvania voters will no longer have to produce a photo ID in order to cast a ballot this November.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s controversial voter ID law, suggesting that with only five weeks left before the election, some people who would need photo IDs to vote might not receive them in time.  Judge Simpson did not strike down the law in its entirety and will continue to preside over its legal challenge.

The judge initially upheld the controversial Pennsylvania voter ID law when he considered it in August.  He ruled Tuesday that state officials had not made enough progress in supplying photo IDs for those who lack them. In his opinion, Simpson said that poll workers could still ask for ID cards provided that they do not turn away those who don’t have them.   He also refused a request to ban state efforts to continue to educate voters about the law.  Opponents of the law said they remained concerned that the ruling could still cause confusion at the polls.

As we previously reported,  critics of the law have complained that it places an extra burden on Puerto Ricans residing in Pennsylvania because all Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 have been rendered invalid.  Pennsylvanians of voting age who were born in Puerto Rico and do not posses a valid voter ID must get a new birth certificate to apply for a state ID card to use at the voting booth.

The Advancement Project and other groups brought suit to challenge the state’s new photo ID law, alleging that it will force many Latinos, and especially Puerto Ricans, to “walk a longer path to the voting booth this election year.”  These groups made  the case that because Pennsylvania requires a birth certificate to obtain a photo ID, Puerto Ricans will face a “double burden” under the new law – first getting a new birth certificate from Puerto Rico and then obtaining a photo ID.

The Puerto Rican vote in Pennsylvania has grown in recent years.  According to recent U.S. census data, there are roughly 340,000 Puerto Ricans in the state, which is slightly more than half of the Hispanic population.  The Puerto Rican population centers around the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

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