By Catalina Camia, USA Today
A Pennsylvania judge is putting a halt to the state's new voter identification law, ordering today that it not be enforced for the presidential election just five weeks away.
The ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson could be appealed to the state's Supreme Court. Simpson's ruling says the law -- requiring each voter to show a valid state-issued photo ID at the polls -- would be fully implemented next year.
Simpson's ruling means Pennsylvania voters will be asked to show photo ID, but can still vote if they don't do so. The same policy was in effect during the state's primary earlier this year.
The judge said during hearings last week that he was considering invalidating a part of the six-month-old law -- considered one of the toughest in the nation -- for the Nov. 6 election.
Democrats and their allies, such as the NAACP, have been opposed to the voter ID law, saying it would harm minorities and low-income voters. Republicans have praised the law as a way to reduce election fraud.
Pennsylvania, a swing state, has 20 electoral votes up for grabs. President Obama is leading statewide opinion polls by an average of 8 points, according to six recent surveys compiled by RealClearPolitics. Mitt Romney said during a recent campaign stop in Pennsylvania that he believes he can carry the state.
Simpson said today that he "expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time. For this reason, I accept petitioners' argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed."
Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, which challenged the law in court, hailed Simpson's ruling. "The evidence made it clear to the judge that this law would indeed disenfranchise voters and that the Commonwealth was not equipped to implement it fairly right now," she said in a statement.
Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said in a statement that he was "disappointed" by the ruling. "We shouldn't have to wait for this commonsense reform to be enacted," Gleason said. "With that being said, voter ID is still Pennsylvania law, was found to be constitutional and we will work to encourage voters to bring their photo identification with them to the polls."