With all of the pressing business confronting the Legislature in Harrisburg, Republican lawmakers are somehow finding the time to advance legislation to require Pennsylvanians to show photo identification every time they vote.
Were there some demonstrated critical need to safeguard the voting process from fraud, we would applaud the Senate State Government Committee’s approval of an ID bill on Monday and a House version that passed in June.
But from all we can gather, voter ID “reform” is the classic solution in search of a problem and looks and smells suspiciously like a Republican effort to disenfranchise large numbers of voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Bucks County state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, chairman of the government committee, says he’s seen no proof that voter ID would deny the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities and young people the right to vote. In fact, on Monday, his committee lengthened the restrictive list of acceptable photo IDs that was part of the House bill. McIlhinney called the requirement a “security check.”
In almost the same breath, however, McIlhinney admitted that he’s likewise seen no proof that people are casting illegal ballots, which supposedly is the impetus behind the legislation. The truth is, the number of fraudulently cast ballots both nationwide and in Pennsylvania is minuscule. It’s a non-issue. And for the Legislature to pursue a voter ID law is a waste of time.
State law already requires voters to produce some form of identification, not necessarily photo ID, when voting at a particular polling place for the first time. Thereafter, a signature is generally all that’s required, although a poll worker can request ID anytime. The system gets voters through the process quickly and keeps the voting lines moving. Incidents in Pennsylvania where a voter pretended to be someone else are virtually nonexistent.
There do exist many people — 11 percent of all Americans by a Washington Post count — who lack valid photo ID, including many young voters, low-wage earners and blacks. It’s not a stretch to conclude that people in those demographic groups, who mostly vote for Democrats, would be the unspoken target of a bill being pushed through a Republican-dominated Legislature and supported by a Republican governor.