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Pennsylvania bill to require photo ID at polls

By Wes Crosby
On February 1, 2012

A bill that would require Pennsylvania voters to show a form of photo identification, which could include college IDs, at polling sites prior to casting a vote in November's presidential election has been referred to the Senate appropriations committee.

In order for the bill to move forward, Sen. Jake Corman (R-Mifflin), chairman of the appropriations committee, must approve a vote.

House Bill 934, introduced by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), is an amended version of a 1937 bill that was designed to protect against voter fraud. That bill, which is still in place, outlines the requirements to vote in Pennsylvania.

"Pennsylvania has a long and ongoing history of documented voter fraud-predating even the frequently forged signature of Mickey Mouse during the 1918 election," Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe said he wants to ensure that the bill stresses the importance of protecting voting.

"Currently in Pennsylvania, it is impossible to board a commercial airplane, cash a paycheck, operate a motor vehicle or even purchase a season pass to an amusement park without displaying valid photo ID," Metcalfe said.  "Guaranteeing the integrity of our state's election process deserves no less than equal protection under the law."

The bill's 48 sponsors consist of 47 Republicans and only one Democrat, Rep. Angel Cruz (D-Philadelphia).

Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh) said most state Democrats oppose the bill because they see it as a "power move" for the Republicans to put themselves in the best position possible during the presidential election. The bill, Frankel said, is aimed to make voting difficult for state constituencies who tend to vote Democrat.

"People who usually tend to vote Democrat — minorities, college students, the elderly — also tend to be the groups who tend to have fewer drivers licenses," Frankel said. "Its [the bill's] goal is to make it cumbersome for those people to get out and vote by making them get photo identification in order to vote. That would put them [Republicans] in the best position to win the state."

Out of 8.73 million registered Pennsylvania voters, only four cases of voter fraud were reported during the 2008 presidential election, which Frankel and other state Democrats do not think is enough to warrant an amendment to the bill.

"It is part of the Republican playbook. They are seeking to mislead the public into thinking the bill is about voter fraud when it's not," Frankel said.

The state Senate amended Metcalfe's bill on Dec. 12, 2011 to include college IDs as a form of proper identification.

Frankel said the amendment to include college IDs as a form of proper identification was a way for the state Senate to "soften the bill" so that it wouldn't be designed to hinder college students from voting.

According to New York University's Brennan Center of Justice, during the 2008 election, 11 percent of the nation's registered voters did not have a form of photo identification.

Kevan Yenerall, political science professor at Clarion University, said the politics surrounding the bill "can't be ignored." According to Yenerall, Pennsylvania shows no recent evidence of needing further protection against voter fraud, but he added that Republicans make the case that doesn't mean fraud can't occur in the future.

"This bill definitely breaks down along party lines," Yenerall said. "Supporters claim that it would combat fraud, but there's not a lot of evidence to support that. It does seem like if any side were to lose with this bill, it would be the Democrats."

Seven states have passed similar legislation in 2011, Yenerall said, including Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

"It's no big secret why all of these amendments have been made in several states in just the past year," Yenerall said. "It's election season."


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