In 1965, with the help and oversight of Martin Luther King, Jr., congress passed, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act. It was put into place to stop states from imposing “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure…to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” And now there’s a series of bills all over the country—including Pennsylvania—that would require ID at voting booths, which many say hurts the legacy of the VRA and King. They say it unfairly targets poor and minority voters who, more often than others, don’t have photo ID. There have been almost no instances of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Former President Bill Clinton has publicly criticized these bills. “Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” Clinton asked during a speech last summer. “Because most of them in Florida were African Americans and Hispanics who tended to vote for Democrats. That’s why.”
Newly-elected Philadelphia Democratic City Commissioner Stephanie Singer has called the rationale behind the bill “hogwash.” But Gov. Tom Corbett quietly supports this legislation. Pennsylvania House Bill 934, as we’ve discussed before, “would deprive voters of the right to cast a ballot if they do not show a valid state-issued photo ID card, with only a few limited exceptions,” according to an email today from Equality PA. It needs to pass by February in order to be in place during the 2012 elections.