Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill Passes Senate
The Pennsylvania state Senate passed Bill 934, also called the Voter ID bill, a little after 5 p.m. today after an hours-long debate. The final tally was 26-23. Three Republicans, Sens. Greenleaf, Jane Earll and Mary Jo White crossed party lines to vote against the bill, which many believe will disenfranchise elderly, minority and perhaps college students in the process.
The bill will require every voter to show photo identification at the voting booth whereas, today, ID is only required the first time you vote in your designated area.
As we’ve reported in the past, several local, state and national organizations have vocally protested this bill, including Project H.O.M.E., the Committee of Seventy, Equality PA, the NAACP, the Brennan Center, the SEIU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, among others.
Equality PA wrote in a recent email that Voter ID “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. 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. called the legislation the “voter suppression bill,” which has been repeated on both the House and Senate floors during debate.
Today’s debate and amendment process on the Senate floor was long and gut-wrenching. Philadelphia senators like Anthony Hardy Williams, Shirley Kitchen and Larry Farnese gave some of the most impassioned speeches of the day, while many offered amendments to ease the pain on constituents.
Williams in particular called the bill an indirect poll tax, arguing that many poor residents of Pennsylvania who lack ID will have to go out of their way to pay the small sum for one. Those who lack a birth certificate will have an added burden. He said such an idea would “destroy the process in search of integrity.”
Republicans have argued that voter ID legislation is necessary because showing ID is a part of life. A supporter of the bill, though GOP senators noted there is little actual evidence of a voter fraud problem in Pennsylvania.
Around 3:30, the Pennsylvania House Democrats, monitoring the debate in the Senate, Tweeted, “#Corbett #GOP logic: money for schools & roads is bad, millions wasted on #VoterID for nonexistent fraud is good.”
There is not yet an official price tag on the bill, though some have estimated it will cost up to $11 million.
“Anyone who calls themselves a patriot … you should not be voting for this bill,” Williams said on the floor.
Similar sentiments were repeated throughout the afternoon.
“This is a fiction, this is not reality. Voter fraud is not a problem,” said Sen. Dinniman of Chester County.
Sen. Daylin Leach, of Montgomery County, noted that there is a stiff penalty of five years in jail for impersonating someone else at the voting booth. He wondered why anyone would be willing to take that risk. He also noted that due to the actual number of allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth citizens are more likely to be hit by lightning than commit voter fraud.
Sen. Larry Farnese of Philadelphia said members of the Pennsylvania legislature are going to have to go back to their districts and explain how they’re hurting the people of Pennsylvania.
“No money for education, kick 89k kids off med. assign, 40k ppl kicked off adult basic Yet we “find” 11m to suppress the rt to vote,” Farnese tweeted later on.
He noted there was no extra money two weeks ago when Gov. Corbett gave his budget address and cut many welfare programs throughout the state. “Where the heck did you find the money?” he asked.
Sen. Fontana of Allegheny County called it “mean spirited,” adding: “it’s highly suspect at the very least…and it is a slap in the face of our democracy.”
At 5:01 p.m., the ACLU of Pennsylvania tweeted that the Associated Press asked if they’d be challenging the legislation in court. They wrote: “Our legal director says, we’re assembling a litigation team as we speak.”
At 5:08, roll call began. It passed a few minutes later. The Democratic caucus then assembled for a press conference. Sen. Williams said he was ready to take it to court.
After the vote, Sen. Farnese tweeted, “We have a very serious priority problem in this Building. And they wonder why we are pissed off!”
The bill will now have to be reconciled with the House version. It will then go to Gov. Corbett’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law.
[h/t Capitol Ideas for great live tweets today]