Pa. Debating New Voter ID Rules

Election proposals are poised for changes in Senate

A hotly debated bill would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before they could cast a ballot.

The bill is now facing changes including allowing a longer list of acceptable IDs, a key Pennsylvania state senator said Friday.

The expected amendment could include work IDs, college student IDs and, for elderly voters, expired driver's licenses, said Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

Current law in Pennsylvania requires identification only from people voting in a polling place for the first time, but it does not require a photo ID. Acceptable forms of ID can include a firearms permit, a current utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck as long as they have a name and address.  However, a poll worker can still request that a voter show identification at any time.

Watch NBC10 @ Issue on Oct. 23 at 11:30 a.m., as the head of the Democratic party in Pennsylvania, and one of the leaders of the Republican party in Pa. tackle questions about voter ID’s. Democratic party chair Jim Burn and Republican deputy chair Renee Amoore have very different views on the implications of requiring every voter to produce a photo ID at the polls.

The voter ID bill that passed the Republican-controlled House in June over the loud objections of Democrats was too stringent, McIlhinney said, adding that a requirement that some form of identification be required is still appropriate to guard against voter fraud.

“We're looking to ensure that there is a voter ID requirement, that people need to produce some type of identification to ensure the one person, one vote rule is not violated,” he said.

The bill's sponsor, House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left at his office Friday.

But McIlhinney said he is working with Metcalfe on a compromise bill, and that he expects Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican, will sign any voter ID requirement that passes the Legislature.

Voter identification has been a hot topic in legislatures around the country, with bills introduced this year in more than 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six states where Republicans control governor's offices and legislatures -- Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- passed photo ID laws this year, bringing the number of states that require a photo ID to 14, according to the NCSL's tally.

An additional 16 states require identification that does not need a photo. Already this year, Democratic governors in five states -- Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North
Carolina -- have vetoed stronger voter ID bills sent to them by Republican-controlled legislatures.

Read more about voter identification laws here.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers warned that the House bill would keep some people from voting, especially the elderly and minorities. In 2006, then-Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed a similar but less-stringent bill that passed the Republican-controlled Legislature. At the time, Rendell said the identification requirement was a “ruse” to suppress people's right to vote.

Then, as now, Democrats challenged Republicans to find proof that the “one person, one vote” rule is being violated, and Republicans were unable to come up with any.

But McIlhinney said most of his constituents support photo ID for voters and that a requirement in Pennsylvania would at least address the fear of voter fraud.

Under the House bill, a free photo ID would be available through the state Department of Transportation. The bill would allow people without sufficient identification to cast provisional ballots, and then return to the county courthouse within six days to prove who they are.

The bill passed in the House, 108-88, with every Democrat and one Republican voting against it after hours of tense, angry debate.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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