HARRISBURG- With the Senate State Government Committee poised to consider legislation requiring photo identification for voting on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today called on committee members to protect Pennsylvanians' access to the ballot box and vote against the bill.
"Voter turnout has increased in recent election cycles," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of PA. "This is no time to disenfranchise the electorate."
Senate Bill 514, introduced by Senator Jane Orie (R-Allegheny), requires voters to show two forms of ID from a narrow list or one form of identification from a narrower list. Similar legislation passed the state legislature in 2006 but was vetoed by Governor Edward Rendell. Last session a voter ID bill was introduced in the state House of Representatives but did not move out of the House State Government Committee.
"This is the worst kind of election reform," Hoover said. "This legislation disproportionately impacts the elderly, the working poor, and racial minorities."
Hoover noted a study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law that showed that 11 percent of American citizens do not have government-issued identification. The research also showed that 15 percent of citizens earning less than $35,000 per year, 18 percent of persons 65 years of age and older, and 25 percent of African-Americans do not have government-issued ID.
"The only reason to support this legislation is out of fear of voter participation," Hoover said.
Voter ID bills have been introduced in other states with varying success. Legislative bodies in Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee have moved similar legislation, but bills like SB 514 have been rejected in Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Proponents of SB 514 have yet to show any evidence of problems with voter fraud in the commonwealth's elections. With poll watchers stationed at polling places around the state, the 2008 election proceeded smoothly.
A lack of voter fraud cases was at the center of the Bush administration's scandal on the firing of U.S. Attorneys. Several federal prosecutors were fired by President Bush for refusing to pursue voter fraud cases.
"Apparently, some state senators want to continue the Bush years," Hoover quipped.
The ACLU of PA is working with a broad coalition of non-partisan groups in opposition to SB 514 that includes The Advancement Project, Black Political Empowerment Project, Coalition for Voting Integrity, Common Cause of Pennsylvania, Concerned Voters of Centre County, Democracy Rising Pennsylvania, Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania, Fair Elections Legal Network, Just Harvest, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, NAACP National Voter Fund, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, Pennsylvania VOICE, Project H.O.M.E., SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, The Time is Now to Make a Change, and Vote for Homes! Coalition.