Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
A judge ruled Tuesday that a Pennsylvania law requiring voters in the swing state to produce photo identification at the polls cannot take effect for the November election.
The suspension of the voter ID law, one of the nation's strictest, could benefit President Obama. Democrats, civil rights groups and advocates for the poor argue that the growing number of voter ID laws targets people least likely to have photo IDs or to be able to afford any and most likely to back Obama.
Backers of the laws say they are necessary to prevent voter identity fraud.
In his ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked Pennsylvania's measure until 2013, saying he was not confident that the state would be able to provide IDs to everyone who needed them before the November election.
Earlier this year, Simpson refused to block the law. Opponents appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which directed that the law had to be blocked unless it was clear no one would be disenfranchised.
Matthew Keeler, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said officials have not decided whether to appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Voter ID laws have emerged as a hot-button, racially charged issue in the run up to the November election. Thirty states have laws in place, including 11 that require photo IDs. New laws in Texas and Wisconsin have been blocked by the courts, and the Justice Department has held up the South Carolina law.
Justin Danhof, general counsel of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said that advocacy groups that opposed the Pennsylvania law are "fraud enablers."
"Judge Simpson delivered a message -- that Pennsylvania's voting booths are open for fraud," Danhof said. "Anybody who wants to commit fraud was just given an open path by the judicial system of Pennsylvania at the behest of the ACLU and the NAACP."
NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous said Simpson's ruling was a victory. He cited June comments by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican, that the voter ID law would help Mitt Romney get elected president.
"This frustrates the plan of people like Rep. Turzai," Jealous said. "I think that the revelation that the majority leader of the GOP in the Pennsylvania assembly made his objective so plain only helps our cause."
Turzai could not be reached for comment, but said in a statement that "every citizen who votes should be sure that his or her vote has not been diluted by somebody else's fraud."
Testimony at the hearings leading to Tuesday's decision showed that the process for voters to obtain identification "would not be free and easy," said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a Washington advocacy group opposed to voter ID laws.
Greenbaum said the ruling could create confusion because it allows poll workers to ask for ID, but does not say what they should do if would-be voters do not have identification. Those without are still to be given a ballot.
The plaintiffs included the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP.
Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes up for grabs. Obama is leading statewide opinion polls by an average of 8 percentage points, according to six recent surveys compiled by RealClearPolitics.
Contributing: Catalina Camia in Washingto