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Corbett Gov. Tom Corbett listens to a question during a news conference Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Philadelphia. Gov. A nearly 2-year-old requirement that almost all of Pennsylvania’s 8.2 million voters must show photo identification before casting a ballot was struck down Friday by a state judge, setting the stage for a courtroom showdown before the state’s highest court. The law, one of the strictest in the nation, was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Corbett in March 2012 over the protests of every single Democratic lawmaker. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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A volunteer with a group called Philly Restart last fall wrote out $13.50 checks made out to the state of Pennsylvania and gave them to would-be voters to be used to obtain a state ID card so they could vote.

New York Times file,

Penn. voter ID law is rejected

  • Article by: Sari Horwitz
  • Washington Post
  • January 17, 2014 - 11:51 PM

 

A Pennsylvania judge on Friday struck down a controversial law requiring voters to show photo identification before they cast their ballots, the latest ruling in what has become a nationwide battle over voter ID laws.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled that Pennsylvania’s voter identification law is unconstitutional and places an unreasonable burden on people trying to exercise their right to vote. “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID law does not further this goal,” McGinley wrote in a 103-page decision. McGinley’s ruling sets up a showdown in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Legal battle across nation

Challenges to new voter ID laws have been a part of an escalating legal battle across the country during the past two years. Critics say the laws — passed by eight states in 2011 — can hurt turnout, primarily among minority voters.

Supporters of the measures, seven of which were signed by GOP governors and one by an independent, said they were needed to combat voter fraud. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law was passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March 2012. It had been delayed by the courts and was not implemented in the 2012 election.

On Friday, civil rights groups and other opponents of voter ID laws cheered McGinley’s decision. “Today Judge McGinley delivered a devastating indictment of the Pennsylvania voter ID law,” said Michael Rubin, whose law firm, Arnold & Porter, joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other lawyers to represent groups challenging the law, such as the NAACP and the Homeless Advocacy Project in Philadelphia.

‘We continue to evaluate’

James Schultz, general counsel to Corbett, said in a statement the state was still weighing whether to appeal. “We continue to evaluate the opinion and will shortly determine whether post-trial motions are appropriate,” he said.

McGinley ruled that several aspects of the law’s implementation failed to ensure that residents would have sufficient access to voting ballots, even though Pennsylvania officials said they would establish mobile units to provide photo IDs to residents who did not have them. He concluded, however, that the plaintiffs had not proved that the law was intentionally discriminatory, as defined under the state constitution.

© 2014 Star Tribune