A Pennsylvania judge last week struck down the controversial voter-identification law, declaring it unconstitutional to mandate individuals to present their photo identification before voting.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley ruled in a permanent injunction that the law would burden individuals who want to vote but could not obtain the proper ID. McGinley also wrote in his opinion that the free ID cards distributed in lieu of state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards are often difficult to obtain.
The state has not announced if it will appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Opponents of the measure have argued it could have a detrimental impact on low-income Pennsylvanians, minorities and elderly voters, as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming voters whose physical appearance may not be identical to the photo on their ID.
Mazzoni Center legal director David Rosenblum said the ruling is a big victory for the LGBT community.
“It was up to the person at the polls to decide whether your photo ID was an accurate representation of you, and if somebody shows up and they don’t look like their photo or they have a different gender marker, they could have been turned away,” Rosenblum said. “Not everyone can change their driver’s licenses or photo IDs.”
In his 130-page decision, McGinley stated that voting laws were made to guarantee a “free and fair election” and that the voter-ID measure did not comply with that.
“The right to vote, fundamental in Pennsylvania, is irreplaceable, necessitating its protection before any deprivation occurs,” the judge wrote. “Deprivation of the franchise is neither compensable nor reparable by after-the-fact legal remedies, necessitating injunctive and declaratory relief.”
Gov. Tom Corbett first signed the bill into law in March 2012. A group of Pennsylvania citizens, including one transgender resident, sued the state, and the case came to trial last summer.
In 2012, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson temporarily blocked the implementation of the law.