The Department of Justice is looking at whether Pennsylvania's tough new voter law requiring photo identification complies with federal laws and on Monday asked the state's top election official and a chief supporter of the law for a long list of information about it.
The law is the subject of a hotly contested debate. Democrats say it is an election year stunt to steal the White House by taking away the right to vote from minorities, the poor or others who might otherwise vote for Obama and Democrats. Republicans say it is necessary to prevent voting fraud.
The law is being challenged in court as unconstitutional, and opponents of it have repeatedly pointed to the lack of any track record of fraud to justify a requirement that could confuse or disenfranchise countless voters who are unable to get eligible IDs or are unaware of the requirement.
The letter, from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, in charge of the department's civil rights division, made 16 information requests to Secretary of State Carol Aichele as federal lawyers study the legality of the law, one of the nation's toughest.
The law, which goes into effect for the Nov. 6 election, says a voter must show an eligible photo ID card for his or her vote to be counted. It is a significant departure from current law, which asks only people voting in a ward for the first time to show identification, including such non-photo forms as a utility bill or bank statement.