By Mark Shade
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A judge blocked Pennsylvania's controversial new voter identification law on Tuesday, a decision expected to influence Election Day turnout in the battleground state.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued a partial preliminary injunction that halts the requirement that people show either a state driver's license, government employee ID or a state non-driver ID card in order to vote in the November 6 general election.
The ruling comes exactly five weeks before the presidential election, and allows the state to continue educating voters about how to obtain the ID so that it may be used in future elections. He scheduled a hearing for December 13.
The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged that there has never been a case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony.
National attention has been focused on the court fight over the law requiring voters to show a photo ID. The Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature passed it in March without a single Democratic vote.
Supporters say the law is aimed at ensuring only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics say it is designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls. Similar debates have generated controversy in other states.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ordered Simpson to re-hear arguments about whether the administration of Governor Tom Corbett was doing enough to ensure voters had "liberal access" to obtain picture ID cards needed to vote in November.
Simpson, despite his previous statement saying he would not wait until the deadline day to rule, declined to reveal his decision on Monday, as attorneys in the case expected.
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, Latino Justice, and SeniorLAW Center have argued that Pennsylvania's voter ID requirements make it impractical or nearly impossible for senior citizens, minorities and the poor to get the special voting card.
(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jackie Frank)
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