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Can GOP find votes in wreckage of Pennsylvania voter ID law?

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday reversed his earlier decision to let the state proceed with a tough new voter ID law in time for the 2012 election. The about-face could give the GOP some ammunition to rouse its base.

On Sept. 26, a man heads into the the Penndot Drivers License Center in Butler, Pa., near a sign telling of the requirement for voters to show an acceptable photo ID to vote. A court on Tuesday invalidated that requirement for the 2012 election.

Keith Srakocic/AP/File

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Can the Republican Party turn a Pennsylvania court's decision to block a landmark voter ID law into a rallying cry to raise funds and rouse the GOP base to get out the vote in November?

Until Tuesday's decision, Democrats were the ones primarily citing the voter ID law, which they oppose, in a bid to mobilize their forces. Groups such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP claimed that Republicans had imposed a new voter ID requirement to try to disenfranchise key Democratic constituencies, such as minorities, the elderly, and the young – much as earlier generations had used Jim Crow rules to disenfranchise black voters. Had the law been allowed to take effect, some legitimate Pennsylvania voters might be turned away from the polls, they said.

But the question now is whether Republicans will seek to capitalize from the ruling by state Judge Robert Simpson, who on Tuesday reversed his earlier decision to allow the controversial law to take effect. It would be easy, some say, to argue that the reversal subverts the will of the people and the state legislature and increases chances of a Democratic victory in November.

The court decision “might be part of a broader narrative that Republicans are using to get out the vote, pointing out that the playing field is a little tougher now, that [Democrats] will have an advantage from this decision and [Republicans] have to counter it,” says Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pa.


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