Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill Close to Becoming a Reality
The Pennsylvania state Senate Appropriations Committee passed the state’s Voter ID bill by a 15-11 vote yesterday. The Republican majority in the committee provided the 15 votes for the measure. One Republican, Sen. Mary Jo White of Vebabgo County, joined the 10 Democrats against.
The bill, which would require voters to bring identification to polling places, is now up for consideration on the Senate floor. If and when it gets to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk, he’s expected to sign it into law.
Democrats and others against the bill have called it a solution without a problem. There have been very few incidents of voter fraud in the United States.
“We’re trying to fix a problem that simply does not exist,” said state Sen. John Wozniak of Cambria County.
Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia railed against the bill, as well. “Here in Pennsylvania, since 2004 we’ve cast 20 million votes and had four convictions of fraud,” he said. “This is a solution searching for a problem, here.” A report by the U.S. Department of Justice stated that between 2002 and 2007 there have been only 86 documented cases of voter ID fraud—nationwide.
Local groups like Project H.O.M.E. and the Committee of Seventy have argued against the bill, saying it disenfranchises voters. It’s minority and elderly voters who will be most affected by the legislation, as they, more often than whites, do not have photo ID. The NAACP has called the proposal racist, and vows to take it to court if enacted. Equality Pennsylvania has been urging a backlash to the bill in the LGBT community, too.
“This will particularly affect non-drivers (senior citizens who no longer drive, persons with disabilities, and residents of urban communities who travel by public transit) and could be especially restrictive to members of the Transgender community,” Equality PA wrote in a recently email. “Also recognize that the challenge of securing a non-driver photo ID card from PennDOT will be costly, difficult, and, for some, impossible.”
Project H.O.M.E. has called the bill the “Voter Suppression Bill” and recently wrote the bill “will particularly affect non-drivers (senior citizens who no longer drive, persons with disabilities, and residents of urban communities who travel by public transit), and the challenge of securing a non-driver photo ID card from PennDOT will be costly, difficult, and impossible for some.”
Those in favor of the bill note that having identification is required for many other things. So it might as well be required for voting.
A similar version of the bill was passed by the House in June. If this version passes in the Senate, the bill would need a final ratification before heading to Corbett’s desk.
UPDATE (3/7): This bill has been debated all day by the state Senate, and things aren’t looking good for opponents of Voter ID. We will have a new blog up when it’s over.