HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania judge has found the state’s voter ID law unconstitutional.
According to the ruling from Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley, the requirement to present an acceptable form of identification when voting in person “unreasonably burdens the right to vote.”
The requirement was challenged in court after Republican legislators passed it and Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law by in March 2012.
Marian Schneider, a local attorney volunteering at
the “My Vote, My Right” awareness event on Smithfield
Street, September 18, 2012.
Opponents of the law celebrated the decision. House Democrats noted that their members had uniformly opposed the law. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said his members were pleased.
“Senate Democrats have said clearly and repeatedly that the voter ID law was an overreach that would result in the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters,” he said in a written statement. “It was a law that should have never been approved and we are very happy that the court turned aside the measure today.”
He called the law a clear effort by Republicans to limit participation in Pennsylvania elections.
“Simply put, it was an effort by Republicans to deny citizens access and a voice in their government that should have been dismissed,” Mr. Costa said in the statement. “Instead of trying to find ways to stop citizens from voting, we should be doing more to encourage all Pennsylvanians to participate in elections.”
Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and one of the lead attorneys for the challengers, wrote in an email: “Once the Commonwealth admitted they couldn’t identify any of the fraud supposedly prevented by the voter ID law, the act was plainly revealed to be nothing more than a voter suppression tool.”
Corbett administration officials could not be reached for immediate comment.
In his ruling, Judge McGinley wrote that the law poses “a substantial threat” to hundreds of thousands of qualified voters.
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal,” the decision reads.
Pennsylvania had moved to make acceptable identification more easily available, but the law’s challengers argued this was not enough.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141. Twitter: @karen_langley. First Published January 17, 2014 9:17 AM