State House Gives Final Approval to Voter ID Bill

On a 104 to 88 vote, the state house has concurred with senate changes to the Voter ID bill and sent the measure to the Governor’s desk.  Governor Corbett was scheduled to sign it this evening.

The vote came after debate over three session days.  HB934 will require voters to show an approved photo identification when voting, starting with the November General election.  The new procedure is expected to get a dry run in next month’s primary.

Opponents call it a solution in search of a problem, arguing there’s little evidence of widespread voter fraud.  Democrats in the state house voted against the bill and said it would suppress voting, especially among groups that do not already have an approved photo ID.

Supporters say it’s a way to help ensure “one person, one vote” and  deter voter fraud.

The measure is expected to face a court challenge.  The bill was opposed by civil liberties groups, the AARP and the NAACP.

Corbett Would Waste No Time Signing Voter ID Bill

Citing 87% public support, Governor Tom Corbett says he would sign Voter ID legislation as soon as it gets to his desk.  “I look at it this way, it ensures one man, one vote,” Corbett says.  The bill being so hotly debated in the House would require all voters to show an approved form of photo ID every time they go to the polls. 

The January poll from Terry Madonna Opinion Research indicates that 47.2% of statewide voters “strongly favor” requirements that voters show a drivers license or other state issued identification before they can vote.  39.6% “somewhat favor” the concept. 

Governor Tom Corbett

Gov. Corbett addressed the media on Tuesday.

Next months’ primary would be a dry run, and the Voter ID bill would be enforced for the first time this November.  While critics balk that it’s too fast of an implementation, Corbett disagrees.  “This has been the subject of discussion for a number of years.  We have an election coming up.  Let’s get it done,” Corbett says.  “Quite honestly you could ask the question in reverse, Why not get it done?”

The governor’s budget plan sets aside $1-million to provide funds to issue non-drivers license identification cards to any voter who declares it necessary for voting purposes.  Democrats, however, argue that the actual cost of implementation would be $11-million. 

As of the time of this post, the House was still debating the bill.  If it concurs in Senate amendments, the House would send the bill directly to Corbett’s desk.

Voter ID Issue Back on Front Burner

As the state Senate Appropriations Committee was preparing to consider controversial voter ID legislation, the Protect Our Vote coalition gathered in the capitol rotunda to urge lawmakers to reject the proposal.  The group also unfurled a roll of petitions filled with 13,000 signatures of voter ID opponents.  Copies of those petitions were then delivered to all 50 state senators. 

“It is an unfunded mandate to be passed along to the cities, towns and taxpayers of the commonwealth, and will not result in curtailing so-called fraud,” said Michael Brunelle, executive director of the SEIU State Council.  The coalition and its supporters say HB 934 is unnecessary, and it will deprive citizens of their right to vote. 

But the state would provide free photo IDs to eligible voters who need them, according to Secretary of the Department of State Carol Aichele.  “It is my commitment to make sure that everyone who wants a photo ID in Pennsylvania is able to obtain one,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.  The photo IDs would be churned out through PennDOT’s 97 drivers licensing centers, and the governor’s proposed budget has even carved out $1-million for non-drivers ID cards for voting purposes. 

The legislation would effectively require all voters to produce an approved form of photo ID every time they go to the polls.  Supporters say it would ensure integrity in the vote process, but critics say there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

The bill passed the House (108 – 88) last June.  Then, an amended version was advanced by the Senate State Government Committee (6 – 5) in December.  The Senate Appropriations Committee passed it late Monday (15 – 11).

Both Sides Claim to be Protecting Your Vote

A capitol rally has fanned the flames of the Voter ID debate.  Back in June the House voted, largely along party lines, to approve a controversial Voter ID bill.  As supporters work to get HB 934 considered in the Senate, the Protect Our Vote Coalition is speaking out.  Pennsylvania Voice field director Jeff Garis delivered a message to lawmakers: “That creation of jobs, that encouraging and building our economy, that protecting homeowners from being sent out of their homes will be the first item of business – not attempts to disenfranchise voters.” 

The coalition calls the Voter ID bill, a voter suppression bill.  “Although many people will face no inconvenience if state-issued photo ID is required to vote – those who will be inconvenienced will include a significant number of people with disabilities and elderly seniors,” says Deborah Delgaldo with the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania. 

The Voter ID bill would require Pennsylvanians to show an approved form of photo ID every time they vote.  State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) says it ensures integrity in the election process.  “It’s just hard to believe that some of these individuals will actually rally around a microphone, to defend a system that has allowed for fraud to occur and for our election code to be violated by ACORN and by other groups,” says Metcalfe, the prime sponsor of HB 934. 

Metcalfe’s bill would allow persons without an approved form of photo ID to obtain one for voting purposes at no cost.  “You’re making available the photo ID card for free, but the documentation that you need to provide is going to be an obstacle,” explains Garis.  “For some people, particularly low income people, seniors on a fixed income, there’s going to be a cost associated with that.” 

An analysis from the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center pegs the cost of Voter ID implementation – including free ID cards, voter notification and more – at $11 million.  While Rep. Metcalfe doesn’t believe the cost will be that high, he does acknowledge there is an associated cost for good government.  “This cost is something that taxpayers will support,” he says.

Voter ID Bill Clears State House

    A bill that would require voters to present a photo ID every time they cast a ballot passed the state House of Representatives Thursday after weeks of debate and political wrangling. The measure received a mostly partisan 108-88 vote in the Republican-controlled House.

    Critics say the bill will suppress turnout among the elderly and minorities, but supporters contend that their only goal is to combat voter fraud. During Thursday’s final debate, Luzerne County Democrat Gerald Mullery, who’s also an attorney, argued that a similar law passed in Indiana resulted in valid court challenges and costly legal battles. He predicted the same fate here if Pennsylvania enacts a voter ID law. During debate on the constitutionality of the bill, Lancaster County Republican Bryan Cutler countered that Pennsylvania already has some voter restrictions in place, and requires a photo ID from first-time voters and those voting for the first time at a new polling place.

    Chester County Republican Chris Ross cast the only “no” vote in the Republican caucus. All Democrats present in the chamber voted against the bill, which now heads to the state Senate.

New Voter ID Requirements?

State House to Consider Voter ID Bill

Gov. Tom Corbett

Governor Tom Corbett Would Sign a Voter ID Bill

The State House is expected to begin debating a controversial voter ID bill this week.  It would require all voters to present a valid photo ID each time they go to the ballot box, and Governor Tom Corbett says he would sign such a bill.  “I think we want to keep the integrity of the voting process, we want to make sure that the person who appears there is the person who is supposed to be there, and that they haven’t gone to four or five different locations,” Corbett said on the Ask the Governor program, which is featured here at  “Do I believe there’s voter fraud out there?  Sure there is.  I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but there are places it could be a problem.” 

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) is the prime sponsor of HB 934, which currently awaits second consideration in the State House.  He modeled the bill after legislation which was approved in Indiana, and subsequently upheld as constitutional by the US Supreme Court. 

While supporters point out that photo IDs are necessary for everything from boarding an airplane to entering some public buildings – critics counter that voting is a right, not a privilege.  “There isn’t one example that we have heard that deals with requiring additional ID for something that is a right,” says Bonita Hoke, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.  The LWVPA recently passed a resolution calling on the General Assembly to defeat Metcalfe’s bill. 

Hoke tells us photo ID requirements would create a “real hardship” for some voters, particularly disabled and older Pennsylvanians.  However, Governor Corbett doesn’t think it’s too big of an imposition.  “Most people have a driver’s license, so I think the vast majority of Pennsylvanians already have their form of official ID,” Corbett said. 

Similar legislation earned legislative approval but was vetoed by Governor Ed Rendell in 2006.  State law currently requires proof of identification at the polls only on a person’s first time voting in a particular polling place.  If you do not have a photo ID, you are allowed to use a current utility bill, current paycheck or a firearm permit as approved non-photo identification.

Voter ID Bill Blasted by State House Democrats, Defended by Sponsor

State House Democrats are attacking a Voter ID bill that may come up for a final vote this week in the house.   Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) says the Republicans in the General Assembly are poised to suppress the votes of law abiding citizens.   

House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) called it a smokescreen. He says there’s no evidence of widespread or any voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), caucus chair, called it a blatant political play.  He says it would stop people who don’t have government-issued photo ID from voting, including many people who don’t have driver’s licenses such as senior citizens and those who ride the bus.

Democrats also say the bill could cost the state millions to implement, with costs for publicizing the change and providing valid photo ID to those voters who do not currently have them.  

The measure, House Bill 934, is scheduled for a final vote on Wednesday.

The sponsor, Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), calls it common sense legislation. He says it’s a matter of ensuring that there’s integrity in the process.

Representative Metcalfe says costs should not be as high as some people claim. He says there’s a process that occurs every election cycle to notify people of changes at the next election. 

In response to criticism that there’s no evidence of voter fraud, Representative Metcalfe says if you don’t have a checks and balance system in place, it’s kind of hard to prosecute something that you’re not checking for at the polls.

He adds the Supreme Court has upheld a similar law in Indiana.

Several groups are on record as opposing the bill,  including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans.