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Pennsylvania voter ID law reviewed

The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania's highest court told a lower court judge Tuesday to stop a tough new voter photo identification law from taking effect in this year's election if he finds voters cannot easily get ID cards or if he thinks they will be disenfranchised.

The Republican-penned ID law has ignited a furious debate over voting rights. The state and its 20 electoral votes are hotly contested between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The 4-2 decision by the State Supreme Court sends the case back to a Commonwealth Court judge, Robert Simpson, who initially said the divisive law could go forward.

If Simpson finds there would be no voter disenfranchisement and that IDs are easily obtained, the 6-month-old law can stand, the Supreme Court said. But the court's directions to Simpson set a much tougher standard than the one he used when he rejected the plaintiffs' request to halt the law, said David Gersch, the challengers' lead lawyer.

"It's certainly a very positive step in the right direction in that the court recognizes that the state does not make adequate provision for people to get the ID that they would need to vote," Gersch said. "In addition, there is a practical problem with getting the ID to people in the short time available."

The law, among the nation's toughest, was already a political lightning rod when a state Republican lawmaker boasted at a GOP dinner in June that the ID requirement "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

Republicans, long suspicious of ballot-box stuffing in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia, say the law would deter fraud. Democrats pointed to a blank trail of evidence of such fraud and charged that Republicans are trying to steal the White House by making it harder for the elderly, disabled, minorities, the poor and college students to vote.

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