Lawmakers, ACLU challenge Pa. voter ID law

Two Philadelphia lawmakers have introduced a bill calling for a complete repeal of the state’s recently passed Voter ID law.

State Representatives John Myers (D-201) and Dwight Evans (D-203) submitted House Bill 2313 on Monday during the General Assembly’s first legislative session following the Easter break.

 

The current law, House Bill 934, requires voters to present photo identification at the polls during state and federal elections.

Voters without a valid photo ID can obtain one for free through PennDOT if they can prove that they cannot cover the cost.

The law takes full effect during November’s general election.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the measure into law in mid-March.

State Rep. Pamela DeLisso (D-194), one of the bill’s 70-plus co-sponsors, said she joined the legislative push, in part, because she thinks the law should have been rolled out more slowly to allow for public education.

“The rush to put this in place allows a reasonable person to wonder, ‘is this about voter suppression?'” she said.

Opponents of the bill argue that the law is a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise mostly Democratic voters – namely seniors, minorities and college students – ahead of this year’s presidential election.

Proponents maintain the measure is focused on minimizing the potential for voter fraud at the polls.

The measure came across Corbett’s desk on the heels of two highly partisan votes in the House and Senate.

DeLissio said the General Assembly’s Republican lean will make it very difficult for the law to be repealed. “I think it has a snowball’s chance in the proverbial hell. It’s just the math of the house,” she said.

Ellen Kaplan, vice president of the Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group, would be similarly surprised if the current law were overturned. Not enough time has passed between its passage and the Pennsylvania primary.

“From a political standpoint, I just don’t see that there’s anything new on April 30 that was different on March 14 that would make the outcome any different in the General Assembly. Particularly since the administration is declaring it a success,” said Kaplan.

Evans has said that with enough public pressure, he believes he can change the minds of his Republican counterparts.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania will file a lawsuit challenging the current law’s constitutionality today.

Kaplan said she thinks challenging the law in court has a better chance of successfully derailing the measure. Courts in other states have invalidated voter ID laws, she said.

“If I were to weigh which one has the greater likelihood of success, I would say the court challenge,” said Kaplan.

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