Pa. upholds controversial voter ID law

(CBS News) A judge in Pennsylvania on Wednesday upheld that state's new voter ID law. Pennsylvania is one of 10 states to pass the voter ID law in the past two years. But with Pennsylvania a crucial state in the coming election, the case there is being followed closely.

Pennsylvania is the latest battleground state to require voters on Election Day to produce a government-approved photo ID at the polls to prevent fraud. In upholding the law, State Judge Robert Simpson called it "a reasonable, non-discriminatory, non-severe burden...."

But state officials have defended the law. Shannon Royer, Pennsylvania's deputy secretary of state, called it "a victory for fair and honest elections."

Judge keeps Pennsylvania voter ID law alive
Pa. voter ID law on trial

But opponents say the Pennsylvanians most likely to be without photo ID are the poor, young, or minorities -- constituencies that often vote for Democrats.

Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures championed voter photo ID laws in nine of the 10 states that have passed such laws since last year.

Lawyer Judith Browne-Dianis represented voters who sued to block the Pennsylvania law. "These voter ID laws undermine democracy by cutting off participation," she said.

CBS News looked at those 10 states that have recently passed photo ID laws, and found there have been fewer than 70 voter fraud convictions in the past decade -- among 40 million registered voters.

Bea Bookler, 94, lives in the Philadelphia suburbs. She sued to stop the law, because she doesn't have a driver's license.

"I have voted in every presidential election," she said, "but I am afraid I won't be able to vote in this one because I don't have photo ID."

Watch a video of Bea Bookler, a 94-year-old plaintiff in the court challenge to Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, react to the court's decision to uphold the legislation:

Pennsylvania officials say they will spend $5 million dollars on outreach to help voters meet the new requirement.

"If you don't have an ID," said Royer, "Pennsylvania has over 70 drivers license centers around the state where voters can get an ID for free, so in no way shape or form is that a burden to the average voter."

The judge who upheld the law estimated 80,000 of the state's voters do not have a photo ID. Opponents plan to file an appeal Thursday with Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. But it's unclear if the court will rule before the election.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.