Gov. Tom Corbett signed the voter ID bill into law today, hours after it was passed by the Pa. House. The controversial legislation will require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The State Senate passed it last week.
The House vote was almost strictly on party lines. The final vote, taken after 3 days of heated debate, was 104-88. Pennsylvania has become the 16th state to have a voter ID law. Three Republicans (Reps. Chris Ross, Kurt Masser and Marguerite Quinn) joined the entire Democratic caucus to oppose the bill.
Voters will need to present one of many types of common photo identification at the polls, such as a driver’s license or school ID. A person who shows up with no identification or one that is not accepted will be able to cast a provisional ballot and present election officials an acceptable form of ID within six days to have their vote count.
There will be a “trial run” for the requirement during Pennsylvania’s April 24th primary, where voters will be asked for ID but not turned away if they cannot provide it. The law will be in full effect for November’s election.
Republicans have said the bill will prevent voter fraud and protect the sanctity of elections. They argue that IDs will not be difficult to obtain for the few people who do not already have appropriate photo identification.
They note that the current law requires voters to present ID their first time voting at any given polling place.
Corbett defended the law as necessary for secure elections.
“I am signing this bill because it protects a sacred principle, one shared by every citizen of this nation. That principle is: one person, one vote,’’ he said. “It sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.’’
“This bill simply reinforces the notion that each person is entitled to one vote in this country,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. “It’s an important principle, and we need to adhere to it.”
“I believe every single individual has a right to have their vote counted and if any individual vote is being canceled out by a fraudulently cast vote, that is one too many,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, told colleagues.
Democrats were universally opposed to the bill, saying it will suppress the votes of many groups, including students, minorities, the elderly, and the disabled. Members of these groups may not have appropriate ID, it has been argued. Although the bill states that all voters will be able to get a free voter ID card from PennDOT, opponents argue that poor, elderly or rural Pennsylvanians would still have a difficult time obtaining one.
Additionally, cost estimates for implementing the law range from $4 million to $11 million and more.
“The essence comes down to one basic truth: That it stifles our fundamental right to vote that is enshrined in our Democracy,” said Rep. Daniel Frankel, D-Allegheny. “Any attempt to infringe that right is an affront to the constitution and it is an affront to the founders of this nation.”
Additionally, little in the way of substantive evidence introduced to necessitate the legislation, aside a few anecdotes from lawmakers. There has not been a single conviction for voter impersonation – the offense the law is designed to prevent – in Pennsylvania.
Even President Obama’s campaign in Pennsylvania, typically mum on legislation in Harrisburg, commented on the law.
“It is unfortunate that lawmakers in Harrisburg have wasted time and energy to pass a costly bill to address a non-existent problem, rather than focus on creating jobs and restoring economic security for Pennsylvania families,” said OFA-PA Press Secretary Jennifer Austin. “The Obama campaign is committed to working hard to register voters and educate people about the process to ensure that all eligible voters can get to the polls and exercise their right to vote in support of the President in November.”
Senate Democrats and the ACLU have pledged a court challenge as soon as the bill becomes law. Other groups who have vocalized their opposition to the bill include the NAACP, AARP, and various civil rights activists.
A similar bill in Wisconsin has just been ruled unconstitutional by a judge who called the bill a form of voter suppression. The U.S. Justice Department has also blocked a similar law from going into effect in Texas, saying it would have a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and other minorities. In December, the Justice Department blocked a voter ID bill in South Carolina for the same reason.
However, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a photo ID requirement for voters in Indiana.
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Let’s be blunt about the PA Voter ID law. Legislators (and the Governor) who say that the Voter ID law is necessary to prevent rampant voter fraud are lying. When they say that their primary reason for passing the bill is not to gain a political advantage in a presidential election year, they are lying. No rational person could view the GOP’s concerted efforts across the country to enact voter ID laws, in conjunction with PA’s outrageous and unconstitutional redistricting plan, as anything but an attempt to steal elections. Is this what the GOP has come to? When it borrows from the playbook of Vladimir Putin and other despots to rig elections, it has become a party without a moral compass, at war with the basic freedoms on which this great country is based. So, is using the “L” word to describe proponents of the Voter ID law over the top? You decide how important this issue is to you, and either ignore it or speak up!
Gory and scary stuff, all for the short term greed!
If Democrats were stealing elections, why do we have a completely Republican-party state government in Pennsylvania? This law will cost the state money to provide “free” IDs to those who don’t have them, and will cost money to defend the lawsuits that are going to be filed. At a time when the Governor is talking about shared sacrifice, why on earth are we spending money on a problem that doesn’t even exist??? Government over-reach and over-spending are supposedly Democratic party issues – it appears the Republicans are doing exactly what they accuse the Democratic party of doing.
Dems want voter fraud to win elections.
I don’t know what the new law says, but under the current law first time voters who vote absentee voters DO have to submit photo ID. They photo copy their ID and include it in the outer envelope.
You don’t need a photo-id to vote absentee.
In my township, some years ago, there was a claim/belief that a local candidate and his girlfriend filled out and submitted an absentee ballot for her mother. The mother actually didn’t live with them, but lived in a nursing home in Philly. She also suffered from Alzheimer’s and it’s very unlikely that she filled out the forms herself. I think the mother might also have been registered in both Philly and at her daughters. (Cross-county voter duplication isn’t checked.)
Santorum, who moved out of Pennsylvania, and new votes in Virginia, but is still on the books in Pennsylvania.
Do people have short memories? The US Supreme Court already decided voter ID is OK.
This is a good thing. In Pennsylvania we only have a signature and the person’s age to judge if its the same person that is registered. If you challenge you have to put up money. Many if not most districts have a large percentage of people who only vote once in four years and are unknown to their election boards. Two of the voting districts in my township have over 3000 voters; there is no way those election boards know all of their voters.
Now that voter ID is the law in PA, where is the protection for illegals and for the dead? Where are the protections to allow rats in Philly to vote multiple times if they want to? At this rate elections might someday be 100% legit and that’s just not fair.
Having solved this major problem, perhaps the Legislature will move on to something else equally important, such as the scourge of jaywalking.
Now in fairness, I don’t disagree with the concept of requiring identification to vote…but I do disagree with the timing and intentions surrounding the particular piece of legislation. It must just be a coincidence that the “full run” of this will come just as the next Presidential election rolls around. Yeah, just a coincidence.
“There has not been a single conviction for voter impersonation – the offense the law is designed to prevent – in Pennsylvania.”
This is a bald-faced attempt to disenfranchise minorities and young people.
Welcome to the 21st century Pennsylvania. When countries such as Canada require Voter ID to vote, it’s about time the US catches up to the rest of the world.
A victory for citizens .
The only people bitching about this are those who want to continue to steal elections. I have a friend who had his identity stolen by someone who registered him to vote as a black man, and the showed up a a poll to cast his vote. This happened in PA. We need Voter ID.
What a colossal waste of money that could have gone toward education. GOP, you are a waste of time and money.