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Stringent voter ID law in Pa. could prevent 750,000 from voting

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

(CBS News) New data released by Pennsylvania officials suggests that as many as 750,000 voters in the crucial battleground territory could be impacted by a stringent new voter ID law.

The law, passed this May ostensibly to prevent voter fraud, requires all voters in Pennsylvania to show a valid photo ID at the polls.

Among those acceptable forms of photo ID include a state-issued driver's license, a valid U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID, a government-issued employee ID, an ID card from an accredited Pennsylvania higher learning institution, or a photo ID card issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, such as an assisted living residence or personal care home.

According to the survey, 758,939 voters - 9.2 percent - could not be matched in state databases as having Pennsylvania driver's licenses, the most common form of photo ID in the state. 

Of those 9.2 percent, about 22 percent - or 167,566 people - are categorized as "inactive" voters, according to the data. A person can be characterized as an "inactive" voter if he or she has not voted in five years and has not responded to a state inquiry about his or her current address. Federal and state law also mandate that an "inactive voter" be kept on the state registration list until he or she fails to vote in two consecutive general elections for federal office following the notification.

"Even though many voters identified in this comparison as not having PennDOT IDs are 'inactive voters', most of whom have not voted since 2007, we will err on the side of caution and include them in this mailing," said Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele in a statement released alongside the study.

Even if voters are classified as "inactive" with 100 percent accuracy, however, that leaves nearly 600,000 "active" voters who lack driver's licenses and may not be able to cast their votes on Election Day.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele had previously said that 99 percent of Pennsylvania voters had the photo ID they needed to vote this November.

The controversial legislation has come under particular scrutiny in the last few weeks after Republican Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader, suggested during a June Republican State Committee meeting that the legislation aimed to benefit Mitt Romney's electoral prospects this November.

"We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we've talked about for years," Turzai said in June, listing off a litany of Republican accomplishments in the state, according to Politics PA. "Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."

The remarks inspired widespread criticism from Pennsylvania Democrats, who decried it as an admission that Republican legislators were attempting to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

The Pennsylvania Department of State, however, maintains that the law merely aims to deter people from voting illegally.

"We are committed to helping any eligible voter who does not have an acceptable ID get one to be able to vote in November," Aichele said. "We are continuing our outreach to get the word to voters about this law. The goal of this law is to allow every legal voter to cast a ballot, but detect and deter anyone attempting to vote illegally."

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