Pa. Voter ID Bill Advances With Changes

Senate committee expands list of acceptable identification for voters

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCPhiladelphia.com
    Pa. Voter ID bill was narrowly approved by a state Senate committee.

    Voters would still need to show ID for every election, but the list of acceptable documents has been expanded.

    A Republican-led effort to require Pennsylvanians to show identification before they vote is continuing despite resistance from Democrats who say some people will be denied the right to vote.

    The Senate State Government Committee on Monday lengthened the list of acceptable photo IDs in a bill the House approved in June.

    The bill would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID. It now would allow some expired government IDs, as well as IDs issued by accredited Pennsylvania colleges and universities and nursing and personal care homes.

    Pa. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele wrote a Philadelphia Inquirer Op Ed in support of new protections against voter fraud.

    “A Pennsylvania Department of State analysis shows 99 percent of eligible voters currently have acceptable photo IDs, and proposals under discussion will likely expand the list of photo IDs that can be used,” wrote Aichele. “PennDot will supply a free ID for those who need one, so the greatest possible cost to taxpayers is slightly more than $1 million, a small price to ensure the validity of each vote.”

    The Philadelphia clean and effective government organization Committee of Seventy has questioned the need to provide photo ID each and every time voters go to the polls.

    On Monday, Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, Committee of Seventy Vice President and Policy Director, was also disappointed that the Senate committee vote was taken during a meeting held without an opportunity for input from the public. It appears likely that the full Senate could approve the legislation this week and send it to Gov. Tom Corbett, who has expressed support for it.

    “With the Pennsylvania 2012 primary on April 24th, this is not a lot of time to get the word out about the new rules on everyone being required to show up at the polls with the proper ID,” said Kaplan.

    Current law requires identification only from people voting in a polling place for the first time. Those forms of ID can include a firearms permit, a current utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck that have a name and address.

    The Committee of Seventy’s policy committee passed a resolution in July against the voter ID revisions, citing a study showing as many as 12% of eligible voters – with likely higher numbers for seniors, those with low incomes or disabilities, minorities and students – do not possess the proper photo identification. The voter ID requirements would also cost the state an estimated $11 million, for new equipment, training and public outreach.

    Kaplan said the 6-5 vote on Monday shows “there is clearly a significant amount of opposition to this legislation.”

    Find more information on Voter ID laws here.