The House needs to concur with a Senate-approved voter ID bill so it can be sent it to Gov. Tom Corbett for his expected signing.
A foretaste of this legislation’s impact will come during the April 24 primary, when local election officials will be required to ask each voter to show proof of identification. On that day, a primary voter lacking such identification will still be allowed to cast a vote.
However, the voter photo ID would 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 or by email or fax within six days after the election in order for the ballot to be counted.
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 voting register and a current effective date in most cases.
Pennsylvania GOP legislative leaders say the voter ID bill is a way to guard against voter fraud, while Democratic lawmakers said fraud by voter impersonation is basically nonexistent and the bill is an effort to suppress voter turnout among the young, poor and elderly in a presidential election year.
The rules committee rejected amendments to delay the bill’s implementation to 2013, allow senior citizens to use a Medicare card for ID and exempt seniors 65 and older from the voter photo ID requirement.
“If there is even a singular fraud, it dilutes all our votes,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh.
“It (the bill) will turn people away from voting, which is something we should be encouraging,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-33, Allegheny County. He said it’s highly unlikely a senior citizen will try to impersonate another voter, yet they are the ones most likely not to have an appropriate voter ID.
The Transportation Department is required under the legislation to issue a non-driver ID card at 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, Turzai said.
Pennsylvania is just the latest state to move toward enacting new voter requirements, a result of mostly GOP-led initiatives across the nation.
Thirty-one states require voters to show ID at the polls while 15 of those states have a photo requirement. Eight states alone enacted laws last year requiring a photo ID.
Evoking special provisions under the federal Voting Rights Act for states with a history of suppressing voting by minorities, the U.S. Justice Department on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing its new photo ID law. Texas had failed to show the measure wouldn’t disproportionately disenfranchise registered minority voters, the department said.