Voter ID law stalled in Pennsylvania state Senate

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December 15, 2011

By Lauren Rodgers

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, PA: A bill that would require Pennsylvania voters to show photo identification won't be considered until 2012. In its original form, the bill required all voters to show government-issued photo identification when casting their votes. It was later amended to allow for nursing home ID cards, college IDs, and select expired IDs to be used at the polls.

As in most states that have considered either similar legislation or ballot measures, the issue is highly polarized in Pennsylvania. Opponents of the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Committee of Seventy, argue the bill hurts minority, low-income and senior voters. Proponents cite the need to combat voter fraud and view a photo ID mandate as the best solution.

The United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, has recently denounced similar laws that have been passed in South Carolina and Texas "that require registered voters to show state-issued photo identification before casting a ballot." Election laws in those states, however, are subject to greater scrutiny than in Pennsylvania. Under the Voting Rights Act, "Southern states with a history of racial discrimination must seek approval from Washington before putting new election laws into effect."[1]

Back in Pennsylvania, the House version of the bill passed with a 108-88 vote in June. The State Government Committee of the state Senate approved the measure with a 6-5 vote, but as the legislature's session came to a close earlier this week the Senate did not consider a vote on the bill. The chamber may take up the bill in January 2012 when it reconvenes after the winter holidays.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett indicates the governor supports the bill. According to the Associated Press, if the bill makes it to the governor's desk "by the beginning of February," the changes in ID requirements would be in place for next year's general election.[2]

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