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In Pennsylvania, the legislature passed a voter ID law that is quite restrictive and that will be likely to disenfranchise many people. It requires a photo ID with one's address, as well as an expiration date. In order to acquire such an ID, one usually needs one's birth certificate, which must be paid for, and sometimes a trip or several trips to a distant county to acquire a state-issued ID. In today's news, it was reported that the state employees who were in charge of assisting people often gave the wrong advice and directed people to get IDs for which there was a charge, in spite of the fact that the state was supposed to make a free photo ID available.
The statute was challenged, ended up in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has sent the case back for additional testimony, and the Commonwealth Court must issue a decision shortly. So presently, the state of the legislation is unknown.
The intent of these statutes is clearly to make it difficult for various groups, for example, the poor, the elderly, colleges students, and African-Americans, to vote, which favors the Republican Party. These statutes have been introduced and passed only in states that have Republican legislatures and/or governors. If there is any doubt about the intent, one can look at the remarks of a Pennsylvania Congressman who stated publicly that the new law would make for easier Republican victories.
The primary legal challenge that is being waged is to argue that these statutes are "poll taxes," a way of making people pay for their right to vote, something that the southern states did after the Civil War as a way of preventing African-Americans from voting, and something which is clearly unconstitutional. If voting is a right, then it is something that no one should have to pay to do.
A voter ID law has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate of Minnestota and will be voted on by the people November 7th 2012. It is expected to pass and become a law.
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