Is the new face of voter suppression in America of Puerto Rican descent?
On the heels of a Pennsylvania judge's ruling Wednesday that the Republican-supported voter ID law in the battleground state could stand, civil rights groups say Puerto Rican voters may be hurt the most.
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Republicans have maintained that they support voter ID laws because of voter fraud, while Democrats say the laws are intended to target groups that typically favor their base, such as Latino voters.
The problem for Puerto Rican voters in Pennsylvania hinges on a 2010 law passed by the Puerto Rican government, which decided all birth certificates issued before that year were invalid. A number of Puerto Ricans, including many living in Pennsylvania, do not own a valid birth certificate as a result. And many are now scrambling to get one before the election.
"If you're a Puerto Rican voter and you already have a photo ID, then you're okay," says Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project, which challenged the voter ID law in court. "But if you are trying to get a birth certificate just to get a photo ID but you don't have a photo ID to get it, then you're in a typical Catch-22 situation."
Among the voters stuck in that paradox is Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher.
Bucher, who is the state director of the AARP, has been unable to get a new Puerto Rican birth certificate because she took her husband's name, and all of her other photo IDs use her maiden name. She has been unable to obtain the birth certificate despite traveling to Puerto Rico.
In July, new data from Pennsylvania officials suggested that thousands of voters could be prevented from voting this election because of the new ID law. It is unclear how many Puerto Rican voters could be affected, but Pennsylvania has one of the most rapidly-growing Hispanic populations in the U.S., with some cities, such as Reading, now more than half Hispanic.
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