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Ear to the Ground

Pennsylvania ID Law Places Undue Burden on Voters, Judge Rules in Striking It Down

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Posted on Jan 18, 2014
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In a move cheered by civil rights groups, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled Friday that a law requiring Pennsylvania voters to show identification is unconstitutional. 

McGinley wrote that the measure, signed into law by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March 2012, did not further the goal of free and fair elections, citing “overwhelming evidence” that hundreds of thousands of qualified voters lacked the needed identification.

The matter likely now heads to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Guardian explores the decision’s possible impact on similar laws in other states:

Although the ruling was a significant one for Pennsylvania’s 8.2 million voters, legal scholars said it had only limited implications for the rest of the country, where similar laws have passed from state to state.

The crux of the ruling was that Pennsylvania had failed to fulfill its promise of providing “liberal access” to a photo identification that would be accepted at the ballot box.

“My initial reading is that this is a great victory for opponents of voter ID laws, but it is very state-specific,” said William Yeomans, a former chief of staff in the Justice Department who is now a professor at American University in Washington.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman

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