Pennsylvanians may soon find out whether voting will join buying a drink, boarding a plane, cashing a check, and purchasing a train ticket on the list of activities that require photo identification.
The state House has approved the Republican majority’s plan to require all voters to show a government-issued photo ID every time the go to the polls – a step that proponents say would prevent illegal voting. Democrats say that there is no evidence the state has a serious problem with voter fraud, and that the bill would only dissuade many voters, especially minorities and the elderly, from casting ballots.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), is pending in the Senate, which is expected to take it up sometime after senators reconvene Sept. 19. In the House, the bill spawned three days of acrimonious debate before the GOP majority used parliamentary maneuvers to shut it down and send the measure to the Senate in June. Even with lawmakers on summer recess, the proposal continues to provoke debate.
Last week, at a gathering of county election officials in Lancaster, Secretary of State Carol Aichele touted the legislation on behalf of the Corbett administration while the director of the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association spelled out why his group considers it a bad idea.
Aichele cited the 2009 arrests of some voter-registration workers connected with the ACORN activist group in Pittsburgh as evidence of the need for the bill. And she said 99 percent of eligible voters already possessed an acceptable photo ID.
In a subsequent telephone interview, she said the bill would help restore confidence in the election system, which was shaken by the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election. “It’s another layer” of security, said Aichele, a former Chester County commissioner. “It would make it harder for people to commit fraud.”
Aichele said she believed voter fraud occurred in some areas and not in others. “I’ve worked in polling places since 1981, and I’ve never seen voter fraud. I’ve never seen absentee-ballot fraud,” she said.