Court rejects Pennsylvania voter-ID law

Voters wait in line at the Bobby Miller Activity Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.
Voters wait in line at the Bobby Miller Activity Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

This item has been updated and corrected. A correction note has been appended at bottom.

Going into the 2012 election cycle, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and Republican state lawmakers created harsh, new voting restrictions, including a voter-ID law intended to prevent voter fraud. State officials later conceded they had literally no evidence that such fraud exists, but GOP policymakers imposed the new burden anyway.

Just five weeks before the elections, a judge put the voter-ID law on hold, ordering Pennsylvania not to enforce it while the legal proceedings continued. This morning, the state court took the next step and rejected the law on the merits.

A Pennsylvania judge has struck down the law requiring the state's voters to show photo identification at the polls. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said the requirement that was the centerpiece of Pennsylvania's embattled 2012 voter identification law places an unreasonable burden on the fundamental 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 as part of his 103-page ruling.
He added that the law "unreasonably burdens the right to vote" and poses "a substantial threat" to hundreds of thousands of eligible Pennsylvania voters.
Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and one of the lead attorneys in the case, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: "Once the Commonwealth admitted they couldn't identify any of the fraud supposedly prevented by the voter ID law, the act was plainly revealed to be nothing more than a voter suppression tool."
Indeed, let's not forget that Pennsylvania state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) boasted in the summer of 2012 that the Republicans' voter-ID law, ostensibly about the integrity of the electoral process, "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
The Corbett administration will, of course, appeal today's ruling.
Update: Here's the ruling (pdf).
Second Update: Rick Hasen has more, describing the decision as "a clear victory for opponents of voter id laws."
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed a quote to state Senate President Dominic Pileggi. In fact, it was said by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai. We regret the error.
Correcting the correction: On Feb. 3, we also corrected Senator Pileggi’s title; he is the state Senate majority leader, not the state Senate president.