Pennsylvania judge strikes down state's voter ID law

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2014 1:59 PM

(Reuters) - A Pennsylvania judge struck down the state's controversial voter identification law on Friday, ruling it is unconstitutional and would disenfranchise voters.

The law requiring Pennsylvania residents to present photo identification has been the subject of heated debate since it was passed in March 2012 by a Republican-led legislature.

It has never been implemented due to a series of court rulings.

In the ruling issued on Friday, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said the law "does not pass constitutional muster."

"Inescapably, the Voter ID Law infringes upon qualified electors' right to vote," he wrote. "Disenfranchising voters through no fault of the voter himself is plainly unconstitutional."

Supporters have said the law is aimed at ensuring that only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics have said it is designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls.

The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged there has never been a case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony.

Similar debates have stoked controversy in other states.

"Today was a good day to be a Pennsylvania voter," said Michael Rubin, one of the attorneys who sued to stop the law from taking effect.

"In striking down this law, the court recognized that constitutional rights, especially the most fundamental right to vote, protect us from the government and cannot be taken away on the whim of that government," he said in a statement.

(Reporting and writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; editing by Gunna Dickson)