A Republican proposal to make Pennsylvania voters produce government-issued photo identification at the polls moved a step from a final vote Tuesday in the state House with the defeat of a succession of proposed Democratic amendments.
Majority Republicans used sheer numbers and parliamentary maneuvers to turn aside proposed exemptions for victims of domestic violence or people with mental and physical disabilities, to have voting information printed in Spanish, or to provide additional information to voters about the change in law.
It was the second straight day the House’s floor action was dominated by the voter ID bill, promoted by its supporters as a way to help ensure the integrity of the voting process in the state. Democrats have argued there is no evidence the state has a significant problem with voting fraud, and warned the bill would needlessly impose a new barrier to voters.
On Monday, Republicans defeated proposals to exempt seniors and military veterans from the requirement that voters display photo IDs issued by the state or federal governments.
The prime sponsor, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, argued for a clean bill that would closely mirror an Indiana law that has been upheld on appeal.
Toward the end of what were hours of debate, and a succession of votes, largely along party lines, members on both sides resorted simply to asking for “yes” or “no” votes.
The issue is loaded with campaign implications, and Democrats said the bill would result in voter suppression, particularly among older people, the poor and minorities.
Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, said information about the law change should be available in Spanish, although his amendment lost 117-83. A later motion to reconsider that vote was also defeated.
“If you want to deny those people whose primary language is Spanish the opportunity to vote, even though they’ve been lifelong citizens of the United States, go ahead and vote no,” Sturla said. “Because someone will teach them how to vote against you in the next election.”
Similar voter ID bills have been approved in at least five states, all controlled by Republicans, since the start of the year. The Pennsylvania Legislature passed a voter ID bill in 2006, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, who said it would make voting unnecessarily difficult.