The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved a House bill to require Pennsylvania voters to show photo identification before they can vote.
Supporters, including Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said the measure will “protect the integrity of the electoral process.” Detractors such as Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, called the legislation the “voter suppression bill.”
The bill was approved 26-23 after more than three hours of contentious debate and amendments. The amended measure must return to the House for a final vote before it would go to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.
If the bill clears the House hurdle, “(Corbett) has said he would sign it,” said Secretary of State Carol Aichele, a member of Corbett’s Cabinet.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, the bill’s sponsor, agrees with the Senate changes and hopes the House can act next week. If all approvals are secured in time for the November general election, Pennsylvania would join 15 other states that require a photo ID to vote.
Acceptable ID would range from a Pennsylvania driver’s license or a passport to nursing home and university IDs. About 1 percent of eligible voters — about 80,000 — do not have valid ID, Aichele said. Providing them with photo ID cards would cost about $1 million, she said, not the $11 million that critics cited.
Democrats claim the ID requirement is an issue pushed by Republican governors and GOP legislatures across the nation to dampen turnout among low-income people who usually vote Democratic. Proponents say the bill is aimed at combating fraud.
Three Republican senators joined Democrats yesterday in opposing the bill. They are Mary Jo White, R-Venango County; Jane Earll, R-Erie; and Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County.
Opponents say little fraud has been proved and the legislation has the potential to prevent some people from voting.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown.
Supporters said legitimate voters should know that fraudulent voters are not tainting their decisions.
“Protecting our electoral process should be a team sport, but I’m shocked that Democrats continue their attempts at blocking a clear way to give each Pennsylvanian … equal say electing our representatives,” said state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason.
If Corbett signs the bill, there would be a dry run in the April 24 primary, Metcalfe said. Voters would be asked for photo ID but still could vote without it. Officials would advise them that they need the identification for the general election, said Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee.
Putting the plan in place in a presidential year is a “mistake,” said Sen. Andrew Dinneman, D-West Chester, who said people will have to wait in long lines while IDs are checked.
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