Split election board to contest Voter ID law

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Divided along party lines, Allegheny County's election board voted this afternoon to file a lawsuit challenging the state's new Voter Identification law.

Board chairman John DeFazio and county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, both Democrats, voted to sue, while Heather Heidelbaugh, the lone Republican on the three-member board, voted against the measure. Both Mr. DeFazio, of Shaler, and Ms. Heidelbaugh, of Mt. Lebanon, serve on the election board because they are at-large members of county council.

"We should be making it easier to vote," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "This legislation [the Voter ID law] is trying to deny that right and make it more difficult for people to vote."

The measure, which takes effect with the Nov. 6 general election, requires that all voters have some form of state-approved photo identification when they come to the polls.

Ms. Heidelbaugh noted that the bill was passed by two houses of the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

"This suit is sour grapes by an elected official who doesn't like the new law," she said.

County solicitor Andrew Szefi said the lawsuit likely would be brought on behalf of both the election board and the county.

The heart of the county's argument would be that the state constitution sets just four requirements for voting eligibility: minimum age, U.S. citizenship, residence in Pennsylvania and a specific election district.

The new requirement that voters show photo identification before they can cast ballots should have been imposed via constitutional amendment, he said.

Mr. Szefi estimated it would take the county law department about a week to prepare the lawsuit, which will be filed in Commonwealth Court.

The county has standing to bring the suit, because it pays elections costs and will have to spend additional money to train poll workers to enforce the photo ID rule, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

breaking - region

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159. First Published June 19, 2012 4:30 PM


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