With a controversial voter identification bill set for approval by the Pennsylvania House, Democrats and advocacy groups from Philadelphia and around the state voiced concern that the move could end up hurting voter turnout.
House Democrats and Republicans debated the legislation for more than seven hours Monday and Tuesday. With a Republican majority in the House, the bill passed a key hurdle Tuesday night and is expected to win final approval as early as Wednesday and be sent to the Senate. The action reflects a national trend – spurred by conservatives who won office in the 2010 midterm election – toward stricter election laws.
… Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Philadelphia) has been among the most vocal critics of the voter-ID effort in Pennsylvania. She has called the move an unabashed political effort by Republicans to disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters.
“This bill is going to achieve exactly the opposite of making elections more fair,” said Josephs. “It’s going to shut out legitimate votes in an attempt to shut out fraudulent votes that don’t exist.”
The proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), countered that it is about nothing more than keeping state elections honest. “Every illegally counted ballot cancels out the vote of a legitimate voter,” said Metcalfe. “Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”
Numerous groups have joined the debate, including the nonpartisan County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Doug Hill, the association’s executive director, said none of the counties has reported even a suspicion of significant voter fraud.
“It just doesn’t happen the way supporters are claiming it does,” said Hill.
State figures show that of the nearly six million people who voted in Pennsylvania in the 2008