When Pennsylvanians go to vote, unless it’s their first time at the polling place, all they typically need to do is tell a poll worker their name and then sign on the dotted line. They are then escorted to a machine behind a private curtain where they cast their ballot. House Republicans want the first part of that routine to change.
Rather than tell a poll worker your name, House lawmakers have passed a bill that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID along with their name and address. The bill will be taken up as early as next month when the state senate reconvenes.
“I’m very concerned about it,” said Madeline Rawley of Doylestown, a member of the Coalition for Voting Integrity. “You’re putting up barriers that make it difficult for seniors, the disabled and young people.”
Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County, chairman of the House State Government Committee sponsored House Bill 934, co-sponsored by Bucks County Republicans Paul Clymer and Scott Petri.
Modeled after Indiana’s photo identification law, Metcalfe’s legislation would amend the Pennsylvania’s election code to require voters to present valid photo ID before voting. Current law requires identification for voters who appear to vote in an election district for the first time.
“It is impossible to board a commercial airplane, cash a paycheck, operate a motor vehicle or even purchase a season pass to an amusement park without displaying valid photo ID,” Metcalfe stated in a press release. “Guaranteeing the integrity of our state’s election process deserves no less than equal protection under the law.”
Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele is a proponent of Metcalfe’s plan. Last week, speaking to the 2011 Pennsylvania County Election Officials Conference in Lancaster, Aichele said requiring voters to provide photo identification will make it harder to commit voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
“My duty, and yours, is to protect the integrity of every vote,” said Aichele, Pennsylvania’s chief election official, explaining the Corbett administration’s support for the photo ID concept. “We must insure every citizen entitled to vote can do so, but also prevent anyone not entitled to this right from diluting legal voters’ ballots, by casting illegal votes.” Aichele said voter turnout in states such as Georgia, with strict photo ID laws, has increased across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines.
Not everyone is on board with the potential change in voting requirements. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party, in fact, condemned Aichele for a “history of promoting voter disenfranchisement” for being the deciding vote against moving a polling place onto Lincoln University’s campus as a Chester County commissioner.
In addition to Rawley’s organization, which fought for the use of paper ballots to ensure the legitimacy of an individual’s vote, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, Common Cause/Pennsylvania and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania have testified against the legislation. The league described it as “yet another unnecessary government program that places extreme photo ID requirements on voters.”