By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said on Thursday he would not appeal a court ruling that struck down a controversial law requiring registered voters to show photo identification.
The decision is the latest in a string of victories against voter-ID laws, which have become a hot racial and political issue across the United States. Last month, judges overturned voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Arkansas.
A Pennsylvania state appellate court judge had issued an injunction in January of this year blocking the enforcement of the 2012 measure, finding it unconstitutional.
“We commend the governor for not continuing to push a dangerous and unnecessary law that would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, one of the groups that filed suit against the law.
Nearly three dozen U.S. states have passed laws requiring voters to prove their identity at polling places. Democrats generally oppose the measures and many Republicans back them.
Supporters have said the Pennsylvania law was aimed at ensuring that only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics have said it was designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls.
Corbett, a Republican who is running for a second term, said Thursday that requiring a photo ID was a “sensible and reasonable measure” to assure that everyone who votes is registered.
He said he will work with the legislature to address the court’s objections to the bill, but in the meantime he wants to focus on the state budget and other legislative priorities.
The law, which required voters to show a state driver’s license, government employee ID or a state non-driver ID, has been the subject of heated debate since it was passed in March 2012 by a Republican-led legislature.
It has never been implemented, due to a series of court rulings.
The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged there has never been a case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony.
(Reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken Wills)
[Image: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett speaks at a news conference in State College, Pennsylvania January 2, 2013. By Craig Houtz for Reuters]