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The trial to decide the fate of Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law began on Monday in the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.

The law, which requires voters to show valid photo identification at the polls in order to vote, has received harsh criticism from groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU, both of which are involved in the lawsuit, over claims that it would disenfranchise minority, low-income and elderly voters. The lawsuit, filed last summer, claims the law is an unconstitutional violation of citizens’ right to vote.

Last fall, state Supreme Court judge Robert Simpson blocked the law’s implementation for the 2012 general election pending the outcome of the trial. The state agreed earlier this year not to enforce the law in the May primaries.

Critics claim Republican lawmakers designed the law — which passed without a single Democratic vote — to make it easier for conservative candidates to win in a state that Barack Obama carried last year.

While PennCards satisfy the law’s requirements, many college ID cards do not, which caused concern that otherwise student voters, who tend to vote Democratic at a high rate, would be disenfranchised.

A study published by researchers from the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis found that, across the country, minority youth were more likely to be asked for photo identification at the polls than other groups.

Regardless of the result of the trial, the matter will likely ultimately be settled in the state’s Supreme Court.

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