HARRISBURG - By the slimmest of margins, the Pennsylvania Senate today passed legislation to mandate all voters in all elections to show a form of identification, as designated in the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded to the vote by calling it "a defeat for democracy."
"There is no doubt that this voter ID scheme will lead to some U.S. citizens losing access to the vote," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "And that is simply unacceptable in a country where so many have struggled for so long for the right to vote."
House Bill 934, introduced by Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County, passed the Senate, 26-23. It needed 26 votes to pass.
The bill includes a narrow list of ID that will be accepted at the polls. Those IDs that will be accepted are largely government-issued, but the list also includes IDs from accredited universities and colleges and from residential care facilities.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania noted that research indicates that as much as 11 percent of citizens do not have government-issued photo ID.
"When you look closer at the data, it becomes clear that particular communities will be disproportionately impacted by this bill," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Seniors, racial minorities, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities are more likely to not have ID than the majority population.
"And the requirements for getting an ID are so onerous that some citizens will be shut out of the polls."
Hoover expressed shock at the comments made by senators over the course of the week.
"They think you can get an ID in six days. They think voters across the state are aware that they're debating this," Hoover said. "They don't grasp the everyday challenges that many Pennsylvanians have."
Other opponents of the voter ID legislation include AARP of Pennsylvania, AFL CIO, SEIU State Council, and the NAACP of Pennsylvania. The ACLU of Pennsylvania is a member of Protect Our Vote, a coalition of 45 organizations opposed to the bill.
Because the Senate amended the bill, it must return to the House for its approval.