HARRISBURG -- The state House signed off on a voter identification bill Thursday after nearly 10 hours of sharply partisan floor debate over three days, sending the legislation to the Senate for consideration.
House members voted 108-88 to pass the divisive bill, which would require most voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot. Sponsor Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said the measure is necessary to cut down on "significant voter fraud plaguing Pennsylvania's elections."
No Democrats voted to support the bill, unsuccessfully challenging its constitutionality more than five times during floor debate. They warned that enacting the legislation would cost tens of millions of dollars on a problem that doesn't exist and would shut out thousands of eligible voters who lack proper ID.
Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson said "many members" of the majority caucus are interested in passing voter ID legislation, though he could not say how soon Mr. Metcalfe's bill could come up.
"We will review the House bill before determining a course of action," Mr. Arneson said.
In all, the bill faced more than 120 amendments filed in the House, most by Democrats looking to limit the number of voters who would be required to show ID. House Republicans voted down more than 15 of those amendments before sponsors withdrew the rest.
The bill includes exceptions for voters with religious convictions against being photographed, as well as individuals living in nursing homes or care facilities that serve as their polling place.
More than 30 Pennsylvania groups lobbied against the legislation, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and AARP Pennsylvania.
The deeply partisan struggle in Pennsylvania reflects a national trend -- spurred by conservative lawmakers who swept into office during the 2010 midterm elections -- toward stricter election laws that Democrats say could shut out minority and elderly voters.
Thirteen states now require photo identification. Sixteen ask for non-photo ID. Figures published periodically by the New York University School of Law show black, Hispanic and Asian voters are 5 to 10 percent more likely not to have the ID necessary under voter ID laws.
John Manganaro is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Interns Association.