State Law Requires Photo ID to Vote, Local Legislators Opposed
The law now requires voters to present photo identification at the polls—starting with next month's primary.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday night signed into law legislation that will require voters to present identification at the polls.
The legislation requires each voter to present proof of identification at every election, beginning with the April 24 primary.
Proponents of the bill, such as House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) lauded the bill, saying it will “strengthen voter identification and enfranchise all voters.”
The state will provide non-driver identification cards for those who need it, free of charge.
According to Turzai, a uniform voter identification requirement “assures all voters will be treated equally and fairly and will prevent some voters from being singled out for identification while other voters are allowed to vote without identifying themselves.”
But state Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Penn Hills), Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Oakmont) and Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Monroeville)—their districts cover Plum, Oakmont and Verona—all voted no when the bill came before the House on Wednesday.
"Making everyone show a photo ID will disfranchise young people, elderly residents, city residents, minorities and naturalized citizens because they are less likely to have such identification," DeLuca said. "It is estimated that 700,000 Pennsylvanians will be disenfranchised by this irresponsible measure. It also will cost the state $11 million or more to implement."
But state Rep. Jesse White (D-Cecil Township) also disagreed with the bill.
White voted no, saying that several flaws with the legislation jumped out during floor debate.
Take the issue of disabled veterans and their identification, for example.
He said because of technical requirements in the legislation regarding acceptable forms of identification, the type now issued to disabled veterans “would not qualify under the bill.”
“It could actually have the unintended consequence of disenfranchising voters who fought and shed blood for our country,” White said.
He added: "Voting is a fundamental, constitutional right, and if we're going to do anything that infringes on that right, we need to make sure no one will be disenfrachised. This bill fails at that spectacularly."
White said that while proponents of the bill have said the legislation "isn't about the 2012 election, the fact the majority rammed it through after acknowledging that there were flaws certainly makes you wonder whether this was more about politics than policy."
"Make no mistake, this bill was schemed by national Republicans and given to GOP-controlled state legislatures in order to suppress voter turnout in a presidential election year," he said. "There is zero evidence to support Republicans' claims of voter fraud in the state."
State Rep. Brandon Neuman (D-North Strabane) said he voted no on the bill—as did all House Democrats and three Republicans—for many reasons, one of them financial.
As for the "free" identification cards?
"It's not free—it's taxpayer dollars," Neuman said.
Neuman added that, if there is fraud in the system, it would be in the registration process, not the voting process, and he said that’s what legislation should address.
“It would stop the fraud, if there is any fraud, where it begins,” Neuman said.
He also said it puts poll workers in a position to not only ask for identification, but also spot fake IDs—something they aren't trained to do.
"This bill sounds so innocent, but it's not," he said, adding that similar laws in other states have been challenged and overturned in the courts.
The state Senate passed the bill last week, with state Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills), Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) and Sen. Jim Brewster (D-McKeesport) voting no. Each senator's district covers either Plum, Oakmont or Verona.
Don't have an ID card? Here's how to get one:
Those who do not have a photo ID will be able to acquire one at no charge from the state Department of Transportation’s photo centers. The nearest photo centers in this area are at the Penn Hills Shopping Center at 11620 Keleket Drive in Penn Hills, and at 1600 Greensburg Road in New Kensington.
Information on the process and what is needed to get a photo ID can be found at http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/voter/voteridlaw.shtml.
Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said they don't expect delays from additional stress placed on the photo license center because of additional people who will need identification.
“At this point, we knew going forward this would happen,” Keeler said. “We don’t foresee any issues.”