Gov. Tom Corbett put another nail in the coffin of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law on Thursday, announcing he would not appeal a judge’s decision that the law violated the fundamental right to vote. The Republican governor issued a statement that defended the law, but he also said it needed changes and that he hoped to work with the Legislature on them. “It is clear that the requirement of photo identification is constitutionally permissible,” he said. “However, the court also made clear that in order for a voter identification law to be found constitutional, changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications.” The centerpiece of the law — a requirement that nearly all of the state’s 8.2 million voters show photo ID at the polls — was declared unconstitutional in January by a Commonwealth Court judge who said it imposed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote and that supporters had failed to demonstrate a need for it.
The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the law, one of the strictest in the nation, two years ago. Its proponents touted it as a way to prevent voter fraud, though administration officials acknowledged they knew of no examples of voter impersonation.
Democratic state lawmakers unanimously voted against the law and accused the GOP of cynically trying to suppress voting by racial minorities, students and other left-leaning groups. The mandate also drew opposition from the AARP, labor unions and advocates for the poor.
“We commend the governor for not continuing to push this unnecessary and dangerous law that would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” said Vic Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania legal director, who worked on the case.