Pennsylvania voter ID law case draws to a close

A sign at the entrance of a polling station in East Greenwich, R.I., advises voters that identification is required, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. Officials say they're seeing only a trickle of voters in Rhode Island as the state holds its presidential primary. Polling supervisors are seen at a table, behind, as a voter, right, enters the polling place. AP Photo/Steven Senne

A sign at the entrance of a polling station in East Greenwich, R.I., advises voters that identification is required, Tuesday, April 24, 2012.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
(CBS News) Closing arguments got underway Thursday in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's new photo voter identification law. The outcome could determine if voters are required to present a photo ID at the voting booth on Election Day in November.

After Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the measure into law in March, voter advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, quickly challenged it. They said the law will deter elderly and minority voters, who are less likely to have photo identification, from voting. These groups tend to vote Democratic. Proponents say the law will prevent voter fraud.

The week-long case included testimony from Lorraine Minnite, a Rutgers University expert on voter fraud, who said such fraud was "exceedingly rare."

"I'm just not persuaded in the absence of evidence it exists," she said.

Before the trial began, the Pennsylvania Secretary of State said that more than 758,000 people, or 9 percent of Pennsylvania voters, lack a driver's license or state-issued ID. Matt Barreto, a political scientist from the University of Washington, testified that his analysis reveals that 1.3 million eligible Pennsylvania voters lack such ID.

Secretary of State Carol Aichele admitted during her testimony that she didn't really know exactly how the law worked or how many voters would be impacted.

Kurt Myers, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Transportation Department, said the agency has not increased staff or supplies to accommodate additional people seeking an ID. He also said many people are unable to complete the process because the lack the proper documents, according to a synopsis of his testimony provided to CBS News by the Advancement Project, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

"The information is just not getting out quick enough" to inform voters of the new requirements, John Jordon, director of civic engagement for the NAACP, said during the hearing. He said sufficient voter education was impossible before November.

Pennsylvania is one of ten states to adopt a photo ID law in the past year. Six such laws are being challenged in the courts or by the Justice Department. The Justice Department blocked Texas and South Carolina's laws but the states are challenging the federal government's actions in court. Separate from this court case, The Justice Department opened an investigation into Pennsylvania's law but has not yet ruled.

Critics of the lack of proven voter fraud in Pennsylvania pointed to statements by members of the Republican-led legislature to argue the law is tied to election-year politics.

Pa. Rep. Mike Turzai, House Majority Leader, said at one point that the law "is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

A recent Quinnipiac/CBS News/New York Times poll shows Romney behind by 11 points in Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who is hearing the case in Pennsylvania state court, hopes to have a decision before mid-August.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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