Controversy over Voter ID Bill Hits Pennsylvania

–by Anne Grant

If Pennsylvania signs a contentious new bill into law, the process of voting is about to become very difficult for over 700,000 of the state’s residents.

On June 24, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the controversial voter ID proposition also known as House Bill 934.  

House Republicans had forced the vote on the bill, which, if passed by the Senate, could potentially disenfranchise about 700,000 otherwise eligible Pennsylvanians.

House Bill 934 would require all voters to show a valid, unexpired photo identification to prove citizenship.

While advocates of the voter ID bill assert that it would prevent voter fraud in polling booths, those opposed to the idea point out that, as state Rep. Ron Waters (D. Phila/Delaware) noted, the bill is a “solution without a problem”.

In the same statement, Rep. Waters continued, “The bill’s sponsor claims that it is needed to fight voter fraud. But in the past 10 years, there have been fewer than two dozen voter fraud convictions in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing; and that’s out of 39.4 million ballots cast.”

More after the jump.
House Democrats and others opposed to the bill posit that the bill simply represents a Republican strategy to marginalize voters who do not have sufficient identification and who would otherwise likely vote Democrat.

Among the 700,000 Pennsylvanians whose voting rights could be compromised are young people, college students, the elderly, and poor residents.  The photo requirement must be issued from DMV centers; this kind of identification is unnecessary for the many Pennsylvanians who rely solely on public transportation.

According to a June 24 press release from the office of Rep. Waters, House Republicans have done little to ease the proposed identification requirement.  It stated, “Republicans rejected amendments that would have allowed other forms of identification to be used, such as voter registration cards, college IDs, or hunting licenses. Additionally, they rejected efforts to exempt voters over 65 and victims of domestic violence from the photo ID requirement, as well as attempts to require notification of this new requirement to be published in Spanish as well as English.”

After its passing by the House, the bill has moved to the Senate for consideration.

In other states, voter identification bills have undergone similar bouts of partisan controversy.  Governors in Minnesota, Missouri, and Montana have all vetoed similar voter identification bills.

Recently in North Carolina, Governor Bev Perdue vetoed her state’s proposed voter identification bill as well.  In a statement from her office, Perdue commented that nothing should stand in the way of citizens exercising their voting rights.  She commented, “We must always be vigilant in protecting the integrity of our elections. But requiring every voter to present a government-issued photo ID is not the way to do it. This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters.”

In Pennsylvania, House Bill 934 is set to be reviewed by the state Senate.

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