HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation today to require all voters at all elections to show unexpired, government-issued photo identification and immediately drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
"A vote for this bill is a vote to disenfranchise U.S. citizens," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Research indicates that as much as 11 percent of U.S. citizens do not have government-issued photo identification. But they have the right to vote. Why is the state House afraid of the voters?"
A 2006 survey by the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law found that 11 percent of U.S. citizens do not have the type of identification required by House Bill 934. The NYU survey found that those without ID are disproportionately citizens over the age of 65, citizens who are African-Americans, and citizens who earn less than $35,000 annually.
Hoover also noted that additional communities are likely to be negatively affected by the House voter ID bill.
"Along with those communities identified by the Brennan Center, it is also reasonable to assume that victims of domestic violence, recently released inmates, and citizens who are homeless are less likely to have government-issued ID," Hoover said.
Supporters of HB 934 indicated no credible evidence of voter impersonation fraud. During the House debate this week, Rep. Babette Josephs noted that the district attorney of Allegheny County was unable to confirm an incident of impersonation fraud at the University of Pittsburgh in 2004 that was cited at a House committee hearing on the bill in March.
"Some citizens could lose the right to vote because the state House is chasing ghosts and phantoms," Hoover said. "Supporters of this bill have used fear mongering in order to convince Pennsylvanians to give up their voting rights."
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is a member of the Protect Our Vote coalition, a coalition of more than 30 organizations opposed to HB 934. The coalition includes civil rights groups, government watchdogs, and advocates for specific communities, including persons with disabilities, seniors, and the homeless.
HB 934 now heads to the state Senate for consideration.