About once a month on average since the beginning of the year, Republican-controlled states have approved laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Kansas, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee — all have either adopted new requirements or expanded existing identification laws to specify photo IDs, pushing the total number of states that require them to 13. Sixteen other states require non-photo identification.
Pennsylvania — with its huge Republican gains in last year’s midterm elections that included the governorship and control of both houses of the Legislature — is now poised to consider a photo ID bill. The House State Government Committee sent it to the floor and initial consideration could come as early as next week. Whether the state will join or buck the national trend is anyone’s guess.
In 2006, mostly on the strength of Republican votes, the Legislature passed a bill that required all voters to show identification every time they vote. Former Democratic governor Ed Rendell vetoed the measure, saying it would make voting unnecessarily difficult. Currently, only people voting in a polling place for the first time are required to show ID.
Whatever the outcome, the latest bill sets up a showdown between Republicans who have fought for years to require identification at the polls, saying that is needed to prevent election fraud, and Democrats who say there is little evidence of abuse and that the GOP’s real motivation is to hold down turnout among voter groups that lean toward Democratic candidates.