By Cherri Gregg
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A judge in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court today struck down the state’s controversial voter ID law, ruling that the photo ID requirement is unconstitutional on its face.
Judge Bernard McGinley ruled the voter ID law is unconstitutional because it does not provide a legal, non-burdensome way for all voters to get a valid photo ID.
The judge reasoned that the state’s non-driver ID from the state’s Department of State was not liberally accessible to voters.
“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 voter ID card was developed in August 2012 after numerous voters were denied Penndot IDs.
Judge McGinley wrote that the law effectively disenfranchised voters through no fault of their own.
The law, one of the strictest in the nation, was signed by Republican governor Tom Corbett in March 2012 over the protests of every single Democratic lawmaker in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the judge accepted all of our arguments, credited our witnesses, and most important, struck down this law that makes it so hard for people to vote,” Jennifer Clarke of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said this morning.
Witold Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped lead the legal challenge, said “the act was plainly revealed to be nothing more than a voter suppression tool.”
Pennsylvania’s Democratic leaders charged that the law was a cynical attempt by Republicans to hold down balloting by seniors, minorities, and other Democratic-leaning groups in the last presidential election.
Republicans called it an election-security measure, but administration officials acknowledged that they knew of no examples of voter impersonation.
Judge McGinley’s decision permanently blocks the voter ID law, but the battle could continue since it was not immediately clear whether the Corbett administration will appeal the court’s ruling.