HARRISBURG -- Calling the state's yet-to-be implemented voter ID law a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression, more than 100 people rallied in the state Capitol Thursday, just days before a trial on the controversial law is set to begin.
"Harrisburg is ground zero in the fight for voting rights in the North," said Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, speaking to the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill in March 2012 requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The law was quickly challenged; a lawsuit was filed later that month by seven voters and the American Civil Liberties Union. Critics of the law have said it would leave many people disenfranchised, and particularly targets low-income people, seniors, minorities and those in urban areas.
Mr. Corbett, who signed the law hours after it was cleared by the General Assembly, said the law would help ensure fair elections.
The courts waived the ID requirement for the November 2012 election and the May 21 primary.
A trial for a permanent injunction is set to begin Monday at Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.
"We need everyone who can be at the courthouse on Monday to be there," said Mr. Jealous. "This judge needs to see, the state needs to see, our nation needs to see, just how important this trial is."
Several speakers invoked the history of the Civil Rights movement and the centrality of the right to vote.
"This ain't just about black, this is about America," said William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.
"If you don't have the right to vote, you don't have anything," added Frank Snyder, secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
Joan Bruce, a Squirrel Hill resident who was at the rally, said she became aware of the importance of the issue while volunteering for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign last year.
"We found this was a huge issue [not having ID] among seniors," she said.
Ms. Bruce said she opposes the law.
"There's no logical reason for it," she said. "If there's voter fraud at all, this doesn't fix it. All it does is make it difficult for people to vote."state
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.