In a move being hailed by civil rights organizations, the governor of Pennsylvania has said he will not challenge a ruling that struck down the state’s voter identification law.
“The Commonwealth will not pursue an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the Commonwealth Court’s decision to enjoin Act 18’s photo identification mandate,” said Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican.
The governor's decision follows a January ruling by a state judge that the Pennsylvania 2012 voter identification law violated the state constitution. The state judge found that there was no evidence that there was a need for the law, which was passed by a Republican-controlled legislature.
Civil rights groups have long complained that the law was designed to make it difficult for African-American, Latino and elderly voters to obtain necessary documents in time to cast ballots in elections.
“During the trial we heard the stories of numerous voters throughout the state who, despite best efforts, were unable to get the identification that the now-invalidated voter ID law required of them to vote,” said Marian Schneider, a senior attorney with the Advancement Project, a civil rights group based in Washington.
“This is not how a democracy should work,” she said, adding that the decision “is a victory for keeping Pennsylvania elections free, fair and acceptable for all voters.”
The decision by the governor represents the latest in a series of recent victories for opponents of the voter identification laws that have been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures around the country.
During a hearing in Pennsylvania state court, political science experts testified that 1 million registered voters, or about 12.7 percent of the state’s registered voters, lacked valid identification to cast ballots under the new law. The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP joined the Advancement Project in complaining that the law would have effectively disenfranchised a large number of minority voters.
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