HARRISBURG ‚?? A controversial new law requiring anyone casting a vote in a state election to provide one of a handful of valid photo identifications passed the House on Wednesday along a mostly party-line vote.
And it‚??s likely to impact voter turnout locally, according to the director of the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections.
The vote Wednesday, after nearly three days of contentious debate, was 104-88, with three Republicans joining every one of the chamber‚??s 85 Democrats in opposing the bill. All 104 votes in favor were cast by Republicans. The Senate previously approved the bill and Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law later Wednesday.
Democratic legislators, the AARP, League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union and other groups opposed the bill, expressing concerns that elderly and minority voters could be adversely impacted.
‚??Looking at the pitfalls, it could diminish turnout come November,‚?Ě said Leonard C. Piazza III, the director of the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections. ‚??Typically, we have very high numbers for presidential elections. But 18 percent of elderly Pennsylvanians do not have photographic ID. That could have a big impact. That is the primary voting block here.‚?Ě
The requirement has caught the attention of those who care for the elderly.
Ann Marie Pfiel, the administrator at Providence Place Retirement Community in Butler Township, said that facility hasn‚??t decided what it will do to accommodate residents.
‚??We‚??d have to wait and see what happens. I‚??m sure we would help them in some way, whether it was issuing IDs or assisting them in obtaining one,‚?Ě she said.
Local House Democrats derided the bill, saying it will be costly to implement ‚?? some estimate it could cost up to $11 million ‚?? and was unnecessary because there has been little documented voter fraud requiring this action.
They also argued that the law would frustrate voters and disenfranchise them, causing lower voter turnout in future elections.
‚??(Leonard) Piazza informed me that in his entire career he has not received a single complaint of voter fraud,‚?Ě said Rep. Gerry Mullery, D-Newport Township. ‚??The system isn‚??t broken, and it certainly doesn‚??t need a fix like this.‚?Ě
But Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, said ‚??Pennsylvania has had a long history of voter fraud‚?Ě and ‚??any money spent to protect the voting process is money well spent.‚?Ě
Democrats were unrelenting in their stance that not only isn‚??t fraud widespread, but it‚??s nearly nonexistent.
‚??Election fraud is a myth. There have only been four convictions for voter fraud out of 20 million votes cast in Pennsylvania since 2004,‚?Ě said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre. ‚??This bill is putting a roadblock between voters and the ballot box. It‚??s a big government restriction in search of a problem.‚?Ě
Republicans disagreed, saying that voter fraud, even if it‚??s just one vote, should be avoided at all costs.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, the bill‚??s sponsor, noted that, ‚??Currently in Pennsylvania it is impossible to board a commercial airplane, cash a paycheck, operate a motor vehicle or even purchase prescription eyeglasses without displaying a valid photo ID.
‚??Guaranteeing the integrity of our state‚??s election process and ensuring that no vote will be canceled out by the forces of corruption deserves no less than equal protection under the law.‚?Ě
While Democrats allege that the bill is a GOP ploy to hurt Democratic turnout, Dr. Agapito Lopez, a spokesman for the Latino community in Hazleton, said he thinks the results will be the exact opposite.
‚??I think it will affect the older Pennsylvanians. I have seen many more older Pennsylvanians (at the polls) who are not Latino ‚?Ľ There are many Republican voters who are older senior citizens. I think if it‚??s the Republicans who are doing this, it‚??s going to bounce back on them.‚?Ě
Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, also said the idea that the bill will hurt voter turnout is patently false.
‚??There are many instances in our modern society during which an individual must furnish a photo ID, so it is absurd to argue this legislation will disenfranchise anyone,‚?Ě Boback said.
‚??The authors of the legislation have gone to great lengths to ensure that anyone who wants to vote will be able to participate in elections,‚?Ě she added. ‚??The legislation even includes a measure requiring PennDOT to provide free IDs. It also includes the use of identification beyond what the state issues, to include college IDs, military identification and credentials issued by long-term care facilities.‚?Ě
Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, vehemently objected to penalizing poll workers with criminal charges for failing to demand ID.
‚??I‚??m not prepared to place an added burden and possible criminal penalties on our precious few polling place workers who now face the prospect of turning away voters whom they may have known for decades.‚?Ě
Rep. Sid Kavulich, D-Taylor, said there just wasn‚??t ‚??enough evidence of widespread voter fraud in the commonwealth that we should be making it harder for people to vote, especially senior citizens and those with physical disabilities.‚?Ě
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians lack photo ID, with half of them being senior citizens.
One of the provisions added to the bill would permit a photo ID issued by a nursing home, assisted living home or personal care home in Pennsylvania could mean those sorts of facilities could find themselves either transporting residents to a state drivers licensing center or creating their own photo IDs for residents.
Rep. Phyllis Mundy said the money that will be spent implementing the new law could have better used in supporting state programs seeing severe budgets cuts.
Details of Pa. bill to require voter photo IDs
HOUSE BILL 934
A person voting must show ID. The acceptable forms of ID must be current, show the individual‚??s name, photograph, expiration date and be issued by:
‚?Ę The U.S. government, state government or a municipal or county government in Pennsylvania.
‚?Ę An accredited public or private institution of higher learning in Pennsylvania.
‚?Ę A nursing home, assisted living home or personal care home in Pennsylvania.
‚?Ę Non-photo driver‚??s license or ID cards issued by PennDOT for voters who have a religious objection to being photographed.
‚?Ę A PennDOT ID expired within the past year.
‚?Ę U.S. armed forces IDs that show an indefinite expiration date.
‚?Ę Absentee-ballot voters, who may provide their driver‚??s license number or, if they do not have a license, the last four digits of their Social Security number.
People without proper ID may:
‚?Ę Cast a provisional ballot on election day and within six days submit a valid photo identification to county elections officials in person or by e-mail or fax.