Republicans pressed ahead Monday with a bill to require voters in the state to show certain photo identifications before their votes can be counted, lengthening the list of acceptable IDs and scheduling the bill for a final floor vote later this week. The bill would make Pennsylvania the 16th state to require a voter to show photo ID, and the concept has support from the Republican-controlled House and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
But Democrats intensely oppose it, as do the AARP, labor unions, civil liberties advocates and the NAACP, and accused Republicans of working to suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities, the poor and the disabled ahead of a presidential election. Republicans pointed to the wide use of photo IDs for things like prescription drugs or boarding airplanes and public polls that support such a requirement.
“With new technology and the fact that people use photo IDs for just about every aspect of daily life, it’s a very small step to require that in the electoral process to ensure that people presenting to vote are the people they claim to be,” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi told an Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday. “It is not the end of Western civilization, as some people claim this to be, and it’s not a vast right-wing conspiracy, as some people claim it to be.”
Democrats suggested the bill was an un-American and illegal encroachment on the constitutional right to vote — “Joe McCarthy would be so proud of us right now,” Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, told the committee — and they questioned why it is so important when there’s scant evidence of voter fraud. “It certainly is a vast, right-wing conspiracy, and I’m not suggesting that anybody around the table is necessarily part of it, but I think this bill is fundamentally contributing to a xenophobia,” said Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny. “I think it’s contributing to this notion that there’s this big voter fraud out there, and that is just not the case.” The bill passed the Appropriations Committee, 15-11, with just Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, crossing party lines.