By Charles Thompson
The Pennsylvania state Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15-11 last week to send a bill requiring voters to produce a photo identification card at their polling place to the full Senate.
The bill, House Bill 934, is expected to receive final consideration there on Wednesday.
The bill drew solid support in committee from members of the Senate Republican majority, which put up all 15 votes for the measure. One Republican, Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango County, joined the 10 Democrats in voting no.
Democrats railed against the bill as a measure designed to suppress voter turnouts in heavily-Democratic cities, where there are larger concentrations of poor and minority voters who may not have identification cards now.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, pointed to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice stating that of 300 million votes cast in federal elections between 2002 and 2007, there were only 86 documented cases of identification-related fraud.
“This is all about voter suppression,” Hughes said.
Supporters countered that the measure is a simple addition to current law to help boost voter confidence in the election process.
“In today’s society, the production of a photo ID is a regular part of daily life,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.
Supporters also noted that persons appearing without a card on election day – the bill would take effect for the November election – will still be able to cast a provisional ballot, with six days to verify their identity. In addition, the bill makes provision for the state to provide free non-driver photo identification cards to anyone who needs one.
If the bill passes the Senate, it would still need a final ratification by the House, where a similar version passed in June.