Corbett official, GOP back voter ID bill
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Move over, bartender. You won't be the only one asking for ID if the state Senate agrees to a controversial change in election law that the Corbett administration stumped for Tuesday.
The state's top election official came out in support of a GOP-backed effort to require voters to show photo identification every time they cast a ballot in Pennsylvania.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said the proposed ID requirement would make it harder to commit voter fraud.
She made her remarks Tuesday morning in Lancaster at the Pennsylvania County Election Officials Conference. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, has been the most vocal proponent of the change in election law. His bill passed the state House in the spring and awaits action in the Senate.
Democrats largely oppose the proposal, saying that it would be unnecessarily burdensome, especially to Pennsylvanians who don't have driver's licenses.
Mr. Metcalfe said his legislation ameliorates that concern because it would provide for free photo IDs for non-drivers.
According to the Department of State, 99 percent of eligible voters already have photo identification. Providing free IDs to every other eligible voter would cost about $1 million, according to the department.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, though, estimates the cost to be $2 million and says it would cost another $9 million to educate the public about the change, provide staff to check IDs at polling places and implement other requirements of the bill.
The Pennsylvania ACLU opposes the legislation, saying it won't be easy for some voters to get IDs -- even free ones.
"If you're an elderly person born in the 1920s in the Deep South, what are the chances of you getting your birth certificate? And if you can get it, it costs money, so in essence it's a poll tax," said Pennsylvania ACLU legislative director Andy Hoover.
He said the bill disproportionately affects minorities, poor people and the elderly who are the least likely to have driver's licenses.
Ms. Aichele, who was nominated by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, said her goal is to protect the integrity of every vote.
"We must ensure every citizen entitled to vote can do so, but also prevent anyone not entitled to this right from diluting legal voters' ballots by casting illegal votes," she said.
Mr. Hoover said voter fraud isn't widespread enough to justify putting an additional barrier between voters and the polls.
"To commit voter fraud you're risking jail time and you're risking a felony record just for a vote. [Ms. Aichele and Mr. Metcalfe] expect us to buy a story that there's massive fraud and that's just not realistic," he said. "For voter fraud to pay off, you would have to do it on a grand scale and a voter ID requirement would not stop fraud on a grand scale."
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn agreed.
"Voter ID legislation is a costly solution to a problem that does not exist," he said. "The Corbett administration is backing an $11 million proposal to disenfranchise voters."
Mr. Metcalfe, meanwhile, says his bill is both necessary and important.
"Whenever even one ballot is cast fraudulently it threatens the integrity of the whole process, the whole system," he said. "You can sway an entire election by a single vote."
First Published August 24, 2011 12:02 am