In a major victory for proponents of voting rights, a Pennsylvania judge overturned the state’s new voter identification law on Friday.
The voter ID measure was enacted in the Commonwealth in March 2012, eight months before the presidential election. It contained a strict ID requirement, meaning that if a voter showed up at the polls and did not have a certain form of photo identification, she would be denied their right to cast a ballot.
Officials estimated that as many as 750,000 Pennsylvanians lacked an acceptable identification, leaving nearly 1 in 10 voters at risk of being disenfranchised.
Many Republicans hoped the measure would help them carry Pennsylvania in the 2012 presidential election for the first time in a generation. These sentiments were captured by State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who in a moment of candor declared that the new voter ID law was “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
The law wound up in court and was ultimately prevented from taking effect in the 2012 election by a temporary order while the two sides continued to litigate the matter.
More than a year later, Judge Bernard L. McGinley ruled on Friday against proponents of the law, issuing a permanent injunction against the voter ID requirement. In his opinion, McGinley noted that “In Pennsylvania, the right of qualified electors to vote is a fundamental one.” Therefore, “Pennsylvania precedent does not permit regulation of the right to vote when such regulation denies the franchise, or ‘make[s] it so difficult as to amount to a denial.’” McGinley also found no compelling state interest was present that could override this right, noting that no in-person voter fraud is “exceedingly rare” and that “a vague concern about voter fraud does not rise to a level that justifies the burdens constructed here.”
The case will now likely move to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.