A judge in the election battleground state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday rejected an effort to block the state’s voter identification law, which civil rights groups argued discriminates against minority voters.
Pennsylvania, a major electoral prize in the November 6 presidential election between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, is one of 11 states to pass laws since 2010 requiring voters to show some form of legal identification. The laws have become a contentious issue ahead of the November 6 elections.
Both parties see turnout as key in battleground states like Pennsylvania, and Democrats fear voter ID laws disproportionately curtail balloting by lower-income and minority voters, who typically favor their party.
Civil and voting rights groups, including the NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, had sought a preliminary injunction to block the law, arguing it erects unfair hurdles for many legitimate Pennsylvania voters who lack an acceptable form of identification.
He found that the civil rights groups failed to show that the law was unconstitutional under all circumstances since it applies to all qualified voters, requiring them to present a photo ID that can be obtained for free. Judges would also be stationed at polling places on Election Day to resolve individual disputes, he added.
The Advancement Project, one of the groups behind the suit, said it would appeal Simpson’s decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The U.S. Justice Department is continuing to review whether the Pennsylvania voter ID law complies with federal voting rights laws, a department official said on Wednesday. The department said in July that it would analyze Pennsylvania data to determine if voters who lack proper ID under the new law are disproportionately black or Hispanic.
Matt Barreto, a political science professor at the University of Washington who testified in the case for the ACLU, found that around 14 percent of voters in Pennsylvania do not possess the necessary ID. Latinos, people without a high school degree and the elderly are all significantly less likely to possess a valid ID, he found in a survey conducted for the ACLU.
The decision will quickly be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That court is currently operating with only six members, because one of its justices is suspended. A tie vote would uphold Simpson’s ruling.
Although their decisions do not always follow partisan lines, the six elected justices are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.