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 today by a state judge, setting the stage for a courtroom showdown before the state's highest court. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley, a Democrat, said the law would unreasonably burden the fundamental right to vote, and the state had been unable to convincingly explain why it was necessary. "Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal," McGinley wrote in his 103-page ruling.
The law, one of the strictest in the nation, was signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March 2012 over the protests of every single Democratic lawmaker in Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled legislature. Enforcement of the law has been blocked by court orders pending resolution of the constitutional challenge. Both sides had vowed to appeal a negative decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. At a 12-day trial, the plaintiffs including the NAACP, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, and Philadelphia's Homeless Advocacy Project emphasized problems in processing and distributing a new voting-only ID card available for free to voters who lack other acceptable IDs. They said dozens of registered voters who applied for those cards before the 2012 election did not receive them before ballots were cast. (Read more voter ID laws stories.)