We see school districts struggling to make payroll; debate on privatizing liquor stores; 9 percent unemployment and empty storefronts across the state. However, the topic getting much press lately is the Pennsylvania voter identification bill.
If the proposed photo ID bill (HB 934) becomes law before the November election, it will require every Pennsylvania voter to show a current Pennsylvania license or federal government-issued ID, college photo ID or a care facility-issued ID. If the voter does not have one of these photo IDs, he/she will not be permitted to vote.
Currently, Pennsylvania voters are only required to show identification if they are voting in a polling place for the first time – and it does not require that the voter to use a photo ID. Acceptable IDs include firearms permit, a bank statement, a paycheck or a current utility bill as long as the ID has a name and address (photo not required).
You need an ID to be able to check out a book at the library. Why shouldn’t you need one at the polls? The answer is that our right to vote is constitutionally protected whereas library privileges are not. A library can charge a fee for a library card but we would cringe at the idea of a poll tax.
Supporters of the voter ID bill believe that the legislation will increase voter participation and lower the chances of electoral fraud. They suggest that voter ID is the only way to keep our elections fair and that voter identification legislation ensures ballot integrity.
However, those that oppose the voter ID bill say it unfairly targets the poor, elderly and minority voters who, more often than others, don’t have a photo ID. Critics of voter identification legislation further claim that there has been almost no evidence of rampant voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
The debate of the PA voter ID bill is fraught with racial and political implications. The debate is a divisive issue with strong partisan overtones. Opponents of voter ID legislation say that requiring a photo ID will disenfranchise certain voting groups. Since these voting groups tend to vote for Democrats, the opposition to voter ID laws tends to come from Democrats.
Democrats are wary of the motivations of the Republicans, saying that the Republicans want to take votes away from the Democrats. Conversely, the Republicans are wary of the Democrats’ motivations, saying that the Democrats are relying on voter fraud to get their votes.
My view? I see both sides of the debate.
From my pro voter ID viewpoint, I believe that requiring identification to vote sounds logical. Unless we have something to hide, what is the problem with showing an ID whenever we vote? It makes sense that requiring photo identification to vote helps ensure election integrity and protect the rights of voters.
Defending his proposed voter ID bill, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R –Butler County) states “. . . my Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act (House Bill 934) is a common-sense safeguard that will only disenfranchise integrity-deficient individuals seeking to perpetuate fraud and corruption at the polls.”
However, my opposing voter ID viewpoint does not want to see seniors, low-income citizens and minorities disproportionately impacted by the proposed voter identification legislation. Plus, there is the cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers to implement the voter ID process; especially at a time when our state (like the rest of the country) is struggling financially. According to a study by nonpartisan PA Budget and Policy Center, HB 934 will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $11 million in the first year alone, with millions more every year after that.
Bottom line . . . I think a legitimate voter’s right to vote absolutely should not be curtailed. I also want the integrity of the voting process ensured; voter fraud should not be allowed to happen. Where does that leave me on HB 934 – seeing both sides.
Is the proposed PA Voter ID Bill necessary or costly and unfair?