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Pennsylvania's voter ID law goes back to court

A poll worker assists a voter with the voting booth curtain before voting during the U.S. presidential election at the Penrose recreation ce
A poll worker assists a voter with the voting booth curtain before voting during the U.S. presidential election at the Penrose recreation ce

By Michael Sadowski

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The latest legal challenge to Pennsylvania's controversial voter identification law opened in court on Monday, where opponents argued it will rob thousands of their right to vote.

The law requiring Pennsylvania residents to present photo identification in order to vote is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and residents who say the law disenfranchises voters.

The law was signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett in March 2012, and the lawsuit was filed two months later.

In August 2012, a Commonwealth Court judge opted not to issue an injunction that would have stopped the law from taking effect.

However, the state Supreme Court ruled the law had to go back to Commonwealth Court for reconsideration, and Judge Bernard Bigley has set aside 10 days for testimony on whether it should be upheld.

A ruling is expected in August.

The hearing comes just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law that required people registering to vote in federal elections to show proof of citizenship, a victory for activists who said it discouraged Native Americans and Latinos from voting.

Under the Pennsylvania law, accepted IDs include drivers licenses and state-issued voter ID cards.

ACLU attorney Michael Rubin said in his opening statement on Monday that the ID requirements place an undue burden on voters.

While there are some 9,300 polling places, there are just 71 Department of Transportation centers that issue licenses, he said.

"This is a law that on its base can only have one result," he said, "and that is thousands of voters losing their right to vote."

Many Democrats have argued the law discriminates against minorities, while many Republicans said the law would prevent voter fraud.

A partial preliminary injunction issued in October, and extended in February, allowed those who did not have acceptable identification to vote in the November 2012 election and this year's primary election.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Chris Reese)

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