On Tuesday, just five weeks before Election Day, a Commonwealth Court judge halted enforcement of Pennsylvania's strict new voting ID law from going into effect in the pivotal swing state until after this year's presidential election. The law, enacted in March, requires that every person have a Department of Transportation (PennDOT) photo ID in order to vote in Pennsylvania. However, under the law, the state of Pennsylvania is supposed to provide alternative voter ID cards free of charge. In September, the State's Supreme Court returned the case to the lower Commonwealth Court to assess the extent that approved voter ID's are readily available to eligible voters.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the law for the November 6 election, stating "the proposed changes are to occur about five weeks before the general election, and I question whether sufficient time now remains to attain the goal of liberal access" to ID cards. The higher court ordered Simpson to block the law if eligible voters would be kept from voting as a result of it, or if he found that the state could not comply with its commitment to provide valid photo IDs to eligible voters within the time available before election day- he did not question the constitutionality of the law. Simpson's decision will allow the law to go into effect in the future. An appeal of the decision is still possible.
Although the future of the law remains contested, the judge's decision to block the law for the November 6 election is a win for Democrats, who have been fighting Republican-passed voter ID laws in many states this year. According to the Associated Press, "Pennsylvania's new law, among the toughest in the nation, is a signature accomplishment of Republicans in control of Pennsylvania state government who say they fear election fraud. But it is an emotional target for Democrats who call it a Jim Crow-style scheme to make it harder for their party's traditional voters, including young adults and minorities, who might not carry the right kind of ID or know about the law."
A study released in September by the Black Youth Project indicated that one million young minority voters were at risk of being affected by new voter suppression laws enacted in 17 states for the November 6 election.
Media Resources: NBC Politics 10/2/12; Huffington Post 10/2/12; MSNBC 10/2/12; NPR 10/2/12
12/11/2013 Human Rights Day Celebrated Around The World - Yesterday marked International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate human rights advances and to assess the challenges that lie ahead in protecting them.
"The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place: these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. . . .
12/11/2013 UConn Under Federal Investigation For Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases - The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University of Connecticut on Monday that it will investigate the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases and violating Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].
The investigation was sparked after seven women filed a formal complaint in October alleging that UConn had failed to protect them from sexual assault and exposed them to a sexually hostile environment.One woman says her attacker was expelled from campus but later readmitted without her knowledge. . . .
12/11/2013 Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark Wins Congressional Seat - Democrat Katherine Clark will become the fifth woman to represent Massachusetts in the US House Tuesday, after easily defeating three opponents in a special election.
"Six years ago, there wasn't a single woman representing Massachusetts in Congress," said Niki Tsongas, the only other woman representing Massachusetts in the House. . . .