PA Senate set to take up voter ID bill next week

Make your voice heard! If you oppose the proposed voter ID bill ( H.B. 934) as an attempt to disenfranchise voters, or an expensive and unnecessary solution to a non-existent problem,  then please contact your new state senator,  Ted Erickson (Republican, 26th District) here.

The state Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday, January 17, 2012. Along with a final vote on redistricting, the full Senate will vote on H.B. 934 with amendments.  The original bill required all voters to present a government issued photo ID at the polls. As amended by the Senate Government Committee, the bill adds nursing home, in-state college and some expired ID’s, which many believe does little to address the potential for voter suppression.
This bill has been characterized as “a solution looking for a problem”. Yet Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is now pressuring lawmakers to enact it into law ASAP – even as GOP lawmakers admit they lack proof of voter fraud.

According the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), who oppose the bill, “we find no evidence – substantiated by a search of case records and anecdotal information from the counties that it is an issue“. Click here to read the entire statement, which was presented to the House State Government Committee.

The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters has also stated its opposition to H.B. 934. “Both unnecessary and costly, this legislation creates hurdles to voting that would disenfranchise thousands of our fellow citizens who are currently eligible to vote….Research shows they [photo ID requirements] encourage racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places, limit voter turnout and prevent eligible voters from participating in our democracy.  Photo ID requirements… do very little to combat the demonstrably rare instances of a voter impersonating someone else at the polls. Indeed there have been no prosecuted cases in Pennsylvania.” Read the entire statement here.

Senator Andy Dinniman made his opposition clear in an opinion piece in last week’s Daily Local.  He stated, “While I oppose the bill, I strongly believe in protecting the integrity of our voting system. The….facts show… since the 2004 elections, 20 million Pennsylvanians cast votes and not one voter was found to have impersonated someone else.”  Read his guest column here.  Note: Andy has served us well and faithfully since 2006, but as a result of the Republican state redistricting plan, Tredyffrin is no longer in his (19th) senatorial district.

Also concerned about the integrity of the voting process in Pennsylvania, local resident Margaret Van Naerssen wrote a thoughtful letter to the editor of Main Line Times last week. In it she offered a number of reasons why our state legislators should oppose the voter ID bill and protect eligible voters’ right to vote and the democratic process. You can read her letter here.


The potential for disenfranchisement: The number of Pennsylvanians who don’t have government-issued photo ID’s is estimated to be 11% of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.  A disproportionate number are African-American and Latino voters, senior citizens, people with disabilities, low-income voters, young voters, and foreign-born Americans.  Many lack documents such as birth certificates required to obtain a driver’s license or state ID.

Long lines on Election Day will further disenfranchise voters who cannot miss work or leave their families long enough to wait to vote. Because poll workers will need additional processing time for voter check-in, inevitably, some voters will leave without casting their ballots. Helping voters with provisional ballots and witnessing their signatures will cause significant delays, but there is no precedent for this in Pennsylvania. Further, the state’s provision for training and additional workers has not been included in H.B. 934.

Absence of Fraud: Nationally, the incidence of voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a 2005 study commissioned by the Justice Department under George W. Bush, there was just one conviction for voter impersonation out of  300 million votes from 2002-2004. The Brennan Center has estimated that 44 one millionths of one percent of votes are cast by people who commit voter fraud. It is statistically near zero and will have no effect on the outcome of an election.

The cost of implementing this bill: It is estimated to be $11 million in the first year alone, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Neither the state nor the counties have budgeted for this expense. According to the Pennsylvania’s LWV, “the cost to implement voter photo ID in Pennsylvania is still unknown.” The costs of additional training for poll workers, a statewide voter education system, new voter registration cards that include a photo, as well as the costs of legal challenges to the new law have not been fully considered. “At, a time when support for education, healthcare and other services are being slashed, it makes no sense for taxpayers to be forced to pay for this…”

Voter ID bills were introduced in 20 states in 2011. Nine state legislatures rejected them, but eight measures are pending, including bills in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. More information on voter ID laws can be found here.

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