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Justice Dept. Investigates Pennsylvania Voting Law

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has launch an investigation of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, questioning how many of the state’s registered voters have the proper identification needed to vote in the upcoming November elections. The law, implemented by Governor Tom Corbett’s administration, would require all voters to provide photo ID before voting. Civil rights groups have spoken out against the statue, going so far as to call it an attempt by the GOP to stifle the black vote.

On Monday, a letter delivered to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Commonwealth Carol Aichele detailed the Justice Departments requests, seeking several databases and records regarding the state’s voters. The state has repeatedly claimed that 99 percent of the state’s voters have the correct identification needed to vote, but the Justice Department seems intent on forcing the state to produce hard evidence. According to the statement, the Justice Department will use the information to “properly evaluate Pennsylvania’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting-rights laws.”

Specifically, the Voting Rights Act forbids laws or practices that would prevent citizens from voting on the basis of race, color or language. A lawsuit against the state has already been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and will be heard by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on Wednesday. Depending on Simpson’s decision, it may be appealed to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Last week in an effort to appease angry voters, the state announced that it would create a new ID card. Voters who provide their date of birth, social security number and proof of address would be able to acquire the new card at the end of August; however, no further plans have been announced. In Philadelphia alone, almost 18 percent of the city’s registered voters were found to be missing a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) ID card.

A protest of the law is being held Tuesday afternoon at the state’s Capitol, headed up by keynote speaker Hilary Shelton, senior NAACP vice president for advocacy and policy. Roughly one thousand people are expected to be in attendance.

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