The Citizens Voice
HARRISBURG – After a day of debate, House lawmakers put off a final vote until today on a controversial bill requiring voters to show specific photo identification at the polls starting with elections this year. Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday he will sign the bill quickly once it reaches his desk.
The Republican governor said individuals, including himself, are able to produce a photo ID card much more quickly than they can for the county-issued voter registration card that lists the precinct polling place.
The voter ID issue has been debated for years and public opinion polls show strong support for it, Corbett said.
“We have an election coming up,” he added. “Let’s get it done.”
In floor debate, Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said the bill is “questionable and highly suspect” and being railroaded through the Legislature.
Local election workers will be required under the legislation to ask voters in the April 24 primary to show proof of identification. However, if a primary voter lacks such identification, but is considered qualified, he or she will still be allowed to vote. Corbett said he doesn’t think this provision will cause problems on primary day.
“I don’t think you are going to see any major delays when it comes to the primary,” he added.
Under the bill, the voter photo ID will be required for the Nov. 6 general election and any special election that would occur after Sept. 17. A voter without the legal ID could cast a provisional ballot and then submit proof of identification to the county elections board either in person, by email or fax within six days after the election for that ballot to be counted.
Republican lawmakers say the voter ID bill is a way to guard against voter fraud and uphold one person, one vote standards. Democratic lawmakers said fraud by voter impersonation is basically non-existent and the bill is an effort to suppress voter turnout among the young, poor and elderly in a presidential election year.
The bill requires voters to show proof of identification issued by the state or federal government or from a local government to an employee, a Pennsylvania public or private higher education institution and Pennsylvania care facility that includes a photo, name that “substantially conforms” to the name appearing on a voter register and current effective date in most cases. Exceptions are allowed for PennDOT licenses, which allow a one-year grace period for expired licenses and military ID cards which show an “indefinite” expiration date. The Transportation Department is required under the legislation to issue a non-driver ID card at taxpayer expense, but no charge to any voter who signs a statement saying he or she doesn’t have proof of identification and needs such proof for voting.
A bill fiscal analysis estimates the Pennsylvania Department of State will draw $3.8 million in federal funds to educate voters about the new requirements. Corbett’s proposed budget includes $1 million to reimburse the Motor License Fund for the costs of issuing photo ID cards for voting purposes. Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, cited estimates that 11 percent of eligible voters don’t have a government-issued photo.
“Obtaining the identification will be time-consuming, and for many difficult,” she said.
Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Tamaqua, said the senior citizens he represents don’t want their votes canceled out because of fraud. He pledged to help any of his constituents get the PennDOT-issued non-driver ID.
“Instead of making it more difficult to vote, we should be making it easier by allowing same-day voter registration, early voting and removing hurdles to voting absentee,” said Rep. Neal Goodman, D-Mahanoy City, who opposes the bill.