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Why judge refused to block Pennsylvania voter ID law

The ruling means that the Republican-backed voter ID law remains in effect for now. Opponents fear the law will suppress turnout among key Democratic constituencies, and have vowed to appeal.

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Protesters chant as Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court holds the first hearings in the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Republican legislature’s Voter ID law in this recent file photo.

Stephen Flood/AP/The Express-Times

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A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday declined to block a new voter ID law that critics charge will suppress turnout among poor, elderly, and minority voters likely to support President Obama.

The ruling was the latest salvo in an escalating legal war across the country over voting procedures and requirements in advance of the November presidential election.

The case is one of several voter ID laws passed by Republican lawmakers that are being challenged in court as a form of voter suppression. Supporters say showing ID at the polls is an efficient safeguard against voter fraud, including voting by non-citizens.

After Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled state legislature passed the ID law in March, the state House majority leader boasted that the new requirement would help deliver the state’s key electoral votes to Mr. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

In his ruling, Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson called the politician’s remarks “disturbing,” and “tendentious,” but he said the voter ID applies equally to all voters in the state and does not violate any constitutional protections.

The new law “does not expressly disenfranchise or burden any qualified elector or group of electors,” Judge Simpson wrote.

“It imposes only a limited burden on voters’ rights, and the burden does not outweigh the statute’s plainly legitimate sweep,” he said in the 70-page decision.

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