The showdown between voting rights advocates and the state of Pennsylvania took a new turn Friday, after a judge struck down a requirement that voters provide ID before voting. The nearly two-year law will now move to the state’s Supreme Court in what looks to be a contest of weighty circumstances.
On a press call today, the attorneys in the case representing the plaintiffs Michael Rubin of Arnold & Porter, Marian Schneider of Advancement Project, Ben Geffen of Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and Witold Walczak of ACLU of Pennsylvania all spoke briefly regarding the case.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote in his 103-page opinion that, “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID law does not further this goal,” echoing the common refrain heard from opponents of the law. The ruling was sufficiently celebrated by the legal team, although there remains some mild caution.
“Today was a good day to be a Pennsylvania voter,” said Rubin. “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.”
Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law was signed in to effect in March 2012 by Republican governor Tom Corbett, setting the stage for individuals and activist groups to rally against the law and take up the matter legally. Stating time and again that the law would disenfranchise voters, particularly voters of color, the advocates are relishing their victory today.
Advancement Project co-director Penda D. Hair added in an earlier statement, “This ruling is a victory for all those who believe that in a democracy, elections should be free, fair, and accessible to all people. Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania citizens who lack one of the limited forms of acceptable photo ID can now cast their ballots without burdensome obstacles. By protecting voting as a fundamental right, today’s decision affirms that all Pennsylvania voters should have the opportunity to participate equally in the democratic process.”