On a day when the biggest news expected to come out of City Hall was Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2012 Budget Address, a resolution offered by Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass was the talk of council chambers as Thursday’s meeting came to a close.
At issue was the “Voter ID” Bill which the State Senate passed on Wednesday and was sent to the House for consideration. If it passes, Pennsylvania would become the 16th state to require voters to produce photo identification before their ballot is counted.
Supporters say House Bill 934 is a common-sense idea to protect election integrity. Bass’ opposition mirrored that of civil-liberties advocates and foes who maintain the legislation creates a non-existent problem in an attempt to suppress Democrat-leaning votes in advance of national elections in November.
“People need to understand what’s going on here. It’s no coincidence that this is happening during a Presidential election year,” she said, opining that minority, poor, elderly, handicapped and student voters are among those who could be disenfranchised. “We need to fight like our lives depend on it because, considering the [social services] cuts coming out of Harrisburg and the [platforms] of those running for the Republican nomination, they do.”
Several council members already came out with strong support.
“They want to turn back the clock to the good old days of poll taxes and grandfather clauses. They must not think we’re in Philadelphia, Pa., but Philadelphia, Miss.,” Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones said of state Republicans supporting the measure. “This is just another way to dissuade people from being a part of the process.”
Also on the record opposing the bill were:
— Councilman At-Large James Kenney: “As a blanket rule, they should just exempt us and the first-class cities anytime they come up with these cockamamie bills.”
— Ninth District Councilwoman Marian Tasco: “The whole bill is built on myth and innuendo.”
— and, Sixth District Councilman Bobby Henon, who hearkened back to memories of hanging chads.
Councilman At-Large Bill Green went so far as to say that if passed, turning the bill into polling-place reality probably wouldn’t gain much traction in Philadelphia.
“We know what civil disobedience is. [Poll workers here] could ask for ID or not ask for ID,” he said. “We can make them come down here and try to enforce it themselves.”
Bass’ resolution, which would formalize City Council’s objection to the state bill, will be considered at next week’s meeting.
“We ought to call it what it really is: The Voter Suppression Act,” Bass said.