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HUGE Voting Rights Win: Pennsylvania's New Voter ID Law Suspended for Presidential Election

Some poll workers may be confused, but voters will cast ballots.

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IPoll workers can ask for the new IDs, he said, but those who cannot present it will still be allowed to vote: newly registered voters will have to show other forms of ID; and returning voters will simply sign in. “I will not restrain election officials from asking for photo ID at the polls; rather, I will enjoin enforcement of those parts of Act 18 which directly result in disenfranchisement,” Simpson wrote.

Simpson also said the lack of the new state photo IDs could not be used to disqualify provisional ballots cast in November. These are ballots that are given to people who say they have registered but are not listed in precinct poll books. They are given a provisional ballot and are required to return to local election offices with proof of their identity in order for their vote to count. For November's presidential vote, election officials will accept the wider range of ID, as was previously state law. “I will enjoin enforcement of those provisions of Act 18 which amend the provisional ballot procedures of the Election Code,” he wrote.

Simpson’s ruling is not the end of the legal battle over the state’s new voter ID law. There would be a follow-up trial after the November election, he wrote, where legal observers already predict that the strict new voter ID law will be upheld because the state motor vehicle agency will have more time to implement it.

But there is no getting around that Simpson’s ruling is a major voting rights victory in a presidential election season. Presidential contests historically have the highest turnout of any election. Many registered voters but who don’t vote in other elections make last-minute decisions to vote. Civil rights groups were afraid that these voters would not be aware of newly restrictive voter ID standards—or other changes in procedures, including new polling place locations.

Simpson’s ruling clears away at least one major voting rights barrier for the November election in a state that been considered among the bottom tier of 2012’s presidential swing states.      

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).