By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
A bill requiring Pennsylvania voters to show photo ID is one step closer to becoming law.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act, HB 934, passed the House State Government Committee and will advance to the House floor for consideration. The civil rights advocates at the PA chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were quick to criticize the measure, saying it would lead to disenfranchisement.
“Passage of House Bill 934 is essential to preserving the sacred freedom of voting from the ever-present forces of corruption seeking to override the will of the people,” said Metcalfe (R-Butler). “Currently in Pennsylvania it is impossible to board a commercial airplane, cash a paycheck, operate a motor vehicle or even purchase season passes to a neighborhood swimming pool or amusement park without displaying a valid photo ID. Guaranteeing the integrity of our state’s election process in which all registered voters can be fully confident that only eligible voters have the privilege of casting a vote, that every vote counts equally and, most importantly, not be canceled out by fraudulent votes deserves no less than equal protection under the law.”
ACLU says that a significant portion of U.S. citizens, 11 percent, do not have a government-issued photo ID, and that the law would create a barrier around the voting booth.
“According to research, 11 percent of U.S. citizens do not have government-issued photo ID,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Those without ID are disproportionately the elderly, African-Americans, and the working poor.
“Voter ID laws create barriers to the ballot box that, intended or not, remind us of our country’s sad history of denying the vote .”
Ironically, both Metcalfe and the PA ACLU phrased their key arguments in language likely to appeal to one another. Metcalfe directly responded to worries about disenfranchisement.
“Information provided by the testifiers [during committee hearings] also made it clear that enacting stronger voter fraud protection legislation, such as Metcalfe’s Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act, does not disenfranchise, suppress or otherwise adversely impact voter participation,” read Metcalfe’s press release. “In fact, in Indiana and Georgia, where showing valid photo ID at the polls is now law, voter turnout has dramatically increased.”
The PA ACLU, meanwhile, critiqued to bill on fiscal grounds.
“Laws to require ID for voting have passed or have been considered in numerous states, and those states have found that these new laws would significantly increase their spending on elections. North Carolina, for example, estimated that a voter ID law would cost the state $18-$25 million over three years in new spending. The commonwealth would accrue costs for free ID cards, poll worker training, and public education efforts around the new law,” the PA ACLU wrote in its press release.
“At a time when the legislature and the governor are arguing over every dime, there’s no justification for passing this expensive bill,” Hoover said. “With no proof of a problem of voter impersonation, this bill is the equivalent of throwing away public money.”
PoliticsPA is following up with Metcalfe’s office regarding the ACLU’s criticism that there has been no evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.