Pattye Benson

Community Matters

voter ID

PA Voter ID Law: Can Court Battles be Far Behind?

Yesterday the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the controversial voter ID bill HB 934 with a vote count of 104 – 88. With Governor Corbett’s signature, Pennsylvania is now home to one of the toughest voter identification laws in the nation.

As expected, legislators cast their votes largely along partisan lines. Locally, Republican state representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) voted for the bill and Democratic state senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) voted against the bill. The law goes into effect today requiring all Pennsylvania voters to present a photo ID issued by state or federal government, a state university or a nursing home, when voting in national, state or local elections.

Rather than closing the chapter on the voter identification bill debate, the passage of this bill will undoubtedly open the floodgates to legal battles. This new voter ID requirement is going to cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than the million of dollars to implement to address a problem that essentially does not exist. Legal challenges to the law are inevitable and those costly court battles will further tap taxpayer funds … in a year that cannot afford such expenses.

In two separate cases this week, we saw Wisconsin and Texas, involved in battles over their new state voter identification laws. In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan put a temporary injunction onWisconsin’s voter ID law. A trial to determine whether the injunction will become permanent is set for April 16. The temporary injunction means that the restrict law will not be in effect for Wisconsin’s April 3rd primary and elections. The US Department of Justice blocked the new photo-ID requirement for voters in Texas claiming that many Hispanic voters do not have the proper identification.

Proponents of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID legislation claim that the law is needed to combat voter fraud, although there was no indication of existing voter impersonation fraud in Pennsylvania, which is the only type of voter fraud this legislation would address.

No evidence of voter fraud plague found in Pennsylvania but we now have a law to prevent such an occurrence. Looks to me like Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is a “solution without a problem”.

Is the proposed PA Voter ID Bill necessary or costly and unfair?

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?

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