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Justice Department opens investigation into Pennsylvania voter ID law

Voter ID Fraud.jpg

FILE: Sept. 19, 2011: Dorothy Melvin, center, gets help in Tennessee from Charline Kilpatrick in getting a license with a photograph, which will be valid at polling stations.AP

The Department of Justice is investigating whether Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is discriminatory, according to a letter released Monday.

Specifically, the department is reviewing Pennsylvania Act No. 18 (2012), which establishes the requirement to show proof of identity to be able to vote, according to the document.

The Justice Department requested data on the state’s registered voters in an effort to analyze whether those who lack the proper identification are disproportionately minorities.

The move by the Justice Department could be a step toward a federal lawsuit under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lawsuits against several others states for voter ID laws have already been filed.

Supporters of the laws cite anecdotal cases of fraud as a reason that states need to do more to secure elections, but the Republican National Lawyers Association last year published a report that identified only some 400 election fraud prosecutions over a decade across the entire country.

Pennsylvania’s law will be challenged in state court later this week as civil rights groups argue the legislation makes it too difficult for the general public to vote.  

Pennsylvania is one of 11 states to pass voter ID laws since 2010.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.