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.