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Pennsylvania judge strikes down voter ID law

Judge Bernard McGinley of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] on Friday struck down [opinion, PDF] the state's nearly two-year-old voter identification law, considered one of the most strict in the nation. In his opinion, MicGinley wrote that the state had failed to adequately explain [AP report] why the law was a necessary measure: "Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal." The law was determined to place an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote. Enforcement of the law has been blocked pending final resolution of the case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Critics of the law have denounced it as a cynical tool of voter suppression, while its supporters claim that such laws are necessary to safeguard against voter fraud though it has been acknowledged that there are no known cases of voter impersonation within the state. Those challenging the law demonstrated at trial the difficult administrative process necessary to obtain a voter ID card and the problems in processing and distributing them, leading to a failure of many potential voters to receive their ID cards prior to elections.

Voter identification laws [JURIST Feature] are a major source of controversy and critics on both sides of the issue accuse one another of trying to manipulate voting populations to their advantage. The laws and challenges to them are not uncommon, in 2012 the Virginia legislature approved [JURIST report] its version of a voter ID law, and in 2009 an Indiana state court found [JURIST report] its state's voter ID law unconstitutional. This is also not the first time Pennsylvania's law has been through its court system. In September 2012 the state Supreme Court vacated [JURIST report] a decision of the lower court upholding the law, and remanded the matter for further consideration. Later, in October of that year the Commonwealth Court issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] against enforcement of the law in anticipation of the then-upcoming presidential election.

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