Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Pennsylvania Constitution

PA Voter ID Bill: Costly and Unnecessary … How about Unconstitutional?

Amended House Bill 934, the vote ID bill passed the state Senate yesterday and is on its way back to the House. In a state where there are major budget shortfalls that are forcing reductions in many programs, how is it possible that there is money for this new government program – Pennsylvania voter identification legislation is unnecessary and unaffordable.

There is no evidence that there is fraudulent voting in Pennsylvania that showing a photo ID would solve. HB 934 will disenfranchise thousands of senior citizens, disabled, working poor and students. Not only will the bill eliminate voters from exercising their Constitutional right to vote, but also it would cost Pennsylvania approximately $4.3 million to implement.

Looking for another reason that HB 934 should not pass, how about unconstitutional? According to Steve Shapiro, an attorney and Judge of Elections for Tredyffrin W-1, House Bill 934 violates the Pennsylvania Constitution. Please read the following comment that I received from Steve:

Two things happened this week relating to this issue. First, the Senate yesterday passed an amended version of HB 934, which will now return to the House, where it almost certainly will pass. According to news reports I’ve read, Governor Corbett likely will sign the final bill into law. Second, on Tuesday, a state court Judge in Wisconsin enjoined Wisconsin’s voter identification law because, he held, it likely violated the Wisconsin Constitution (

The Wisconsin opinion led me to look at the Pennsylvania Constitution and, sure enough, it appears that HB 934 violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The email below, which I sent to Representative Kampf last night, explains why:


I understand that HB 934, as amended by the Senate, is on its way back to the House for a vote. I am writing to express my grave concern that the proposed law would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that: “Every citizen 21 [now 18] years of age, possessing the following qualifications [relating to citizenship and residency], shall be entitled to vote at all elections subject, however, to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact.”

As I understand this provision, any qualified voter (i.e., a citizen that meets the residency requirements) who has registered pursuant to the registration laws enacted by the General Assembly has a Constitutional right to vote. HB 934 would prohibit a registered voter who meets the qualifications set out in the Pennsylvania Constitution from voting if he or she does not have proper identification. As such, it would appear that the proposed law would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and I am concerned that, if HB 934 is enacted, my fellow poll workers and I will be required to enforce a law that infringes the Constitutional rights of our neighbors.

I urge you to look into this issue before voting on the bill.


Steve Shapiro
Judge of Elections, Tredyffrin W-2″

Thank you Steve for your thoughts on HB 934. If you are concerned about the voter identification bill and wish to contact State Rep Warren Kampf, his email address is:

Red-Hot State Voucher Program Clears Initial Hurdle

Teacher unions and school board members must be lining up across the state this morning in opposition to the latest Senate Education Committee vote.

Calling the proposed school voucher bill, an ‘opportunity scholarship’, the committee voted 8-2 yesterday in favor of the proposed legislation. The bill intended to help the state’s poorest children from the lowest-performing schools by providing options of attending other public, private or parochial schools, did not pass the committee without debate. The troubling issues that many of us have discussed, including constitutionality, religious freedom and the cost to public schools were sticking points for two members of the committee.

The Senate Education Committee is composed of six Republicans and four Democrats. Co-sponsoring the proposed legislation is Democratic Sen. Anthony Williams and Senate Education Committee Chair Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin). All six Republicans supported the bill, as did two Democrats, Williams and Sen. Andy Dinniman. If you recall Dinniman had some suggested amendments to the bill, including testing and accountability from the non-public schools. The opposing school voucher bill members of the committee were Democrats Jim Ferlo and Daylin Leach.

Leach debated the proposed legislation on the grounds that the bill is not constitutional. Ferlo and Leach are concerned that the voucher system could erode public schools whereas the others feel that the legislation actually offers a lifeline to those children trapped in the low-performing schools. The opposing sides present two distinctly different ways of looking at the same situation. Piccola suggests that Leach’s argument that the school voucher legislation is unconstitutional is an erroneous interpretation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The chair of the Senate Education Committee also dismissed the argument that the bill is in conflict with the state constitution in regards to support of religious schools with public money.

With all the questions swirling around this legislation, why did the Senate Education Committee seemingly just push it along through the system? Usually, I would be complaining about the slowness of government process, but it is amazing the way this school voucher bill is bulldozing its way through Harrisburg.

Aside from the many questions, concerns and debates swirling around this voucher bill, why don’t we hear much about the cost of this ‘opportunity scholarship’? Gov. Corbett swept into the Governor’s office under the umbrella of austerity and budget constraints, so can someone please explain to me how the estimated $860 million in taxpayer costs by the end of the third-year phase of the voucher program, meets that mission? And the $860 million does not take in to consideration the dollars the bill will siphon from the public schools.

Help me understand . . . what am I missing?

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