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Voter ID Fight Coming to A Head Monday in Harrisburg

The skirmishing in Harrisburg over the last year on the bill that would require state-issued photo ID for practically all PA voters turns into a pitched battle on Monday with a committee vote scheduled and a series of actions by an opposition coalition designed to block final passage at the 11th hour. Opponents have long viewed the legislation as a flagrant attempt to suppress the vote in a presidential election year by turning away otherwise eligible voters at the polls on an unnecessary technicality.

While proponents, including Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, see the bill, HB 934 as a sensible attempt to ensure against voter fraud, opponents point to the total void in documentary evidence of individual voter fraud at the polls in PA and view the effort as a partisan political ploy to undermine the legitimate voice of voters. Those likely to be affected, they say, are primarily people who do not drive and therefore lack drivers licenses (with photos) and tend to be elderly, poor, disabled and/or disproportionately of color.

The Protect Our Vote Coalition will be holding a press conference Monday morning in the Capitol rotunda and then literally rolling out some 13,000 petition signatures against the bill linked together, which will take up the length of maybe three football fields, according to Jeff Garis, Field Director of PA Voice. They’ll then break them apart and drop off the petitions of constituents to their respective senate offices.

Meanwhile, the coalition is urging concerned voters to call their state senators Monday morning to send a clear message to vote no on the voter ID bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a vote on the measure that afternoon. If the bill is approved in committee, a floor vote could be scheduled for as soon Wednesday, said Garis.

The morning press conference at the Capitol will involve leaders and representatives of the PA branch of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the PA State Conference of the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) State Council and the Advancement Project.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, Secretary Aichele, when pressed as to whether there was substantive evidence of voter fraud of the type that could be addressed by photo IDs, testified that “We don’t have reports of it.” Aichele said on Philadelphia Public Radio’s “Radio Times” show in December, “Fraud – clever fraud – is very hard to detect and by definition, fraud is designed not to be detected,” apparently heading toward the view that the lack of evidence was, indeed, evidence itself of the problem of voter impersonation/fraud.

The PA Protect Our Vote Coalition includes a range of advocacy and community-based organizations: The Advancement Project; ACLU of PA; And Justice For All (AJFA); Black Political Empowerment Project; The Brennan Center; Coalition of Retirees for Economic and Social Justice; The Coalition for Voting Integrity; Common Cause PA; Democracia Inc.; Demos; Dignity Housing;Disability Rights Network of PA; Fair Elections Legal Network; Homeless Advocacy Project; Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania; Human Rights Coalition; Keystone Progress; ; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; League of Women Voters of PA; Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania; National Council of Jewish Women; PA Alliance for Retired Americans; Pathways to Housing PA; Penn Action; PA Council of Churches; PA Immigration & Citizenship Coalition; PA NOW; PA Prison Society; PA State NAACP; Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women; PRO ACT SEPA Public Policy; PRO ACT Veterans Helping Veterans; Project HOME; Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Rock the Vote; SEIU PA State Council; SeniorLAW Center; The Time Is Now To Make A Change; Vote for Homes!; Western PA Black Political Assembly; Why Not Prosper?; Women’s Law Project; WomenVote PA; and X-offenders for Community Empowerment.

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  1. Pam Gillespie McClellan

    I agree, some of the more restrictive provisions of this bill have been relaxed. However, in a very difficult budget year, why are we agreeing to spend more money on voter IDs???? This program will cost the state several million dollars to provide picture IDs to those people who don’t have them – how on earth is this a fiscally conservative thing to do? We already are cutting program after program, not spending money on transportation, and eliminating state police, and now we are being told that this program will provide free IDs to those who need them? I don’t see why we need to add another program that costs more money into our state budget. This makes no fiscal sense whatsoever. This is yet another ridiculous idea that will end up costing the state money to solve a problem that isn’t even threatening the votes in this state.

  2. David

    BTW, the PA Food stamp debit cards already have photo IDs on them to assure that the $247/month of taxpayers $$$ is not being used to buy drugs via the popular swap foodstamp debit card for cash that I witnessed at a nearby Philadelphia Pathmark. The cashier remarked that many photo IDs had been removed so that the customers could buy junk food without being caught.
    If you do not drive and want to vote, get a photo ID from your local Welfare Office, I’m sure they already have one on file.

  3. David

    Cheltenham issued voter registration cards years ago without photos. If citizens abide by the rules of one vote per legal resident we would not need this anti-voter fraud HB 934. We should issue photo ID cards for every Cheltenham School District student to assure that our tax dollars are not being used to educate Philadelphia residents. Perhaps then our School taxes would decrease and quality of education and SAT scores would increase.

  4. Madeline Rawley

    The Citizens’ Call’s motto should be ” All the news that needs to be printed”. Thank you for covering this all important issue which is ignored by local media.

  5. Dave Posmontier

    People do have forms of ID but this bill would require a specific state photo ID which for some folks would involve hardship. To obtain a state ID, one would have to present certain documents such as a birth certificate or marriage license. There are folks, especially elderly or impoverished, who don’t have these documents available and would have to go through a lot to try to obtain them. And when comparing driving and using a credit card and cashing a paycheck to voting, there is one vital difference. Voting is a basic right spelled out in our constitution while these other activities are privileges. We should be making it easier to vote not putting more roadblocks in the way. We should have voting on a Sunday or better yet, make election day a holiday. The bottom line is- there is no evidence of voter fraud and it is clear that this bill is a partisan attempt by republicans to keep as many democratic leaning voters away from the polls. It is anti-democratic and flies in the face of our constitution…

    • Hatboro Mike

      I agree with the idea of voting on weekends. Not sure why that hasn’t been an issue in the past.

      As for the ID requirements currently in the law, they are a bit less restrictive now. Accepting other forms of ID like college IDs and even IDs issued by s\care facilities, including non-photo IDs for people whose religious beliefs make photo-taking an issue. (I’m not sure of which “religions” this applies to, but …)

      I get the constitutional argument. But their are several states that already require ID, so I’m not sure that it;s really a “constitutional argument” or it would have been settled by now.

      I sincerely do not see HARDSHIP here, especially if the State were to take a more proactive role in making the ID process more accessible.

  6. Hatboro Mike

    I’m not sure why in an age when you need an ID to drive, cash a paycheck, use a credit card, rent an apartment, buy a house, etc., etc.; yet it’s an unacceptable imposition to ask for one at a poll. Where do these people work, live and conduct their business without using some form of ID?

    Even if they are indigent or disabled, don’t they have to have some form of ID to get their benefits??

    Maybe the simple solution is to make Voter Registration Cards, which you must have to vote anyway, a photo ID. But I’m sure that too would be considered an impractical or “unnecessarily intrusive” requirement.

    • Madeline Rawley

      Every person who registers to vote is sent a blue card which reads “Certificate of Registration and has your birthdate and signature. If a voter comes to the polls with this card in hand, they will not be able to vote as they do not have a government issued photo ID – a PA driver’s license or US passport – which the House bill demands.

      This bill has been written to prevent people who do not drive from voting. Who are these people? Elderly who no longer can drive, urban residents who don’t need to drive, poor people who cannot afford a car or drive, for example. Why keep these people from voting? Please tell me what you think.

      • Hatboro Mike

        From what I understand of the bil, the State would be on the hook to provide FREE Commonwealth ID for all those needing it. I would HOPE that the State would also be REQUIRED to ease the difficulty for certain groups – like the elderly and institutionalized – to obtain the required ID.

        If not, I would agree that the law would be unnecessarily restrictive. However, I note that the most recent version of the law seems to ease some of the restrictions by accepting other forms of ID, like college IDs. Not that this resolves the elderly issue.

        What if the ID requirements were “grandfathered” for people over the age of 55?

        By the way, you do not need to drive to obtain a PA-issued ID. You might have to drive to GET one, or perhaps deal with the inconvenience of public transportation. But I do not see that as an excessively restrictive burden.

        Does anyone know if you need ID to receive Federal or State social benefits?

      • Everette Hamilton

        I believe that the bill requires the State to furnish an acceiptalbe I.D.

  7. Tom McHugh

    It’s odd that so many politicians from less urban parts of PA assume that dead people must be voting in the cities. They don’t understand how real citizens can vote against them on the issues, so they claim that it must be voter fraud. It reminds me of the kids that wanted to change the rules of the game when they were losing.

    • Everette Hamilton

      Why would anyone question keeping elections clean. Many have argued for years that people have been disenfrancised , so why not do what the government shoudl be doing and that is to make the elections as clean as possible. Stop disparaging other people’s motives and look at it as leveling the playing field.

      The same game of voter cheating could be going on in the rural areas as well, so don;t automaticlly assueme that the cheating doesn;t go both ways. I’m sure you would be ready to throw the hillbillies in jail if that was proven. It reaslly isn’t asking a lot of a citizen to prove who they are. It is required in every other walk of life.