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Monday, December 5, 2016

A Pennsylvania judge refused to grant an injunction to block the state’s controversial voter ID law this morning. The Republican-backed law, which passed without a single Democratic vote, requires voters to present photo identification before they are allowed to cast a ballot. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that view the law as discriminatory sued to stop its implementation, arguing that it unfairly blocks minorities, college students, and other Democratic-leaning groups from the ballot box.

The decision — which was made by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson — paves the way for the potential disenfranchisement of an estimated 758,000 voters. African-American and Latino communities will likely be disproportionately affected.

Supporters of the law have claimed that it is essential in order to prevent election fraud — even though government lawyers admitted that the state is “not aware of any incidents of in person voter fraud.” According to an analysis by News21, there have only been 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud in the entire country since 2000. In fact, there were more fraud incidents with absentee ballots and voter registration — something the Pennsylvania voter ID law does nothing to combat.

Although Judge Simpson expresses his “sympathy” for the witnesses in his written decision, he believes that there is no constitutional reason to block the law.

“At the end of the day, however, I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for the counsel. Rather, I must analyze the law, and apply it to the evidence of facial unconstitutionality brought forth in the courtroom, tested by our adversarial system,” Simpson wrote.

Furthermore, the AP reports that Simpson said the law “is neutral, nondiscriminatory, and applies uniformly to all voters.” He also wrote: “Speculation about the potential problems in issuing valid photo IDs or confusion on Election Day did not warrant ‘invalidation of all lawful applications’ of it.”

Democrats have repeatedly claimed that laws such as Pennsylvania’s are purely political measures, designed to help Mitt Romney win the presidential election. This theory was seemingly confirmed in June, when Pennsylvania’s Republican House Leader Mike Turzai told a Republican crowd that the new photo ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.”

Judge Simpson’s decision comes in midst of several other high profile voter suppression battles. Florida Governor Rick Scott has vowed to complete a second voter purge before the November election, and several counties in Ohio have used early voting rules to further the GOP strategy.

The ACLU is expected to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court, where there are three Democratic and three Republican justices. The seventh judge, Republican Joan Orie Melvin, is currently under investigation for corruption.

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