The April 24 primary election will be a test run for a proposed state law that would require voters to show photo IDs at the polls. It would be a “soft” tryout in that anyone who fails to produce government-issued photo identification would still be permitted to vote.
If enacted, however, the law will mandate such ID. Anyone who can’t produce valid ID when they go to the polls on Election Day will be permitted to vote provisionally. That vote will be counted if ID is produced within six days.
“This is a simple, common-sense measure to protect the integrity of the voting process, the very foundation of democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Republican from Chester, said on his Web site. “Already, 15 other states — including Florida, Michigan and Indiana — have photo ID requirements in place.”
Opponents, however, last week said the law is aimed at poor voters who likely will vote Democratic. Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives and Senate are Republican-controlled and Gov. Tom Corbett is a Republican.
Further, the law is unnecessary, disruptive and costly, City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer said during a March 8 rally in Love Park in Center City.
The House bill, which was modified and then passed by the Senate last week, must go back to the House for another vote and then be signed by Corbett, Singer said she was urging the governor not to sign it but said she knew he would.
“We can still defeat this bill,” she told a small gathering of Democratic officeholders, union officials and members of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.
“Turn out to vote in Philadelphia April 24 and in November. Turn out in every election,” she said. “We can send a message to the enemies of democracy.”
In the city, more people stay home than go to the polls. In 2010, a half-million Philadelphians didn’t vote, she said. Turnout during the 2011 general election was about 20 percent.
Singer said forcing people to show ID would eat up time at the polls and cause confusion among people who are not aware of the new law.
State Rep. Cherelle Parker, a Democrat from Northwest Philadelphia, said putting the voter ID requirement into practice would cost far more than the $4 million cited by the bill’s supporters. She put the actual price at about $11 million.
She claimed there have been no problems with people misrepresenting themselves at the polls, so there’s no real reason to take $11 million from other state programs.
“There has to be something wrong with that,” she said.
What’s wrong, said state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, another Democrat from Northwest Philadelphia, is that the bill is about voter suppression, not voter integrity.
On her Web site, Youngblood said there were 9 million votes cast in 2008 but only four cases of vote fraud.
Since the most common photo ID anyone has is a driver’s license, the government-issued photo ID requirement is aimed at people who likely don’t have driver’s licenses — the urban poor or disabled, who use public transportation, or older people who no longer drive, she said at last week’s rally.
She said Republicans designed the bill to curb Democrats from voting. They finally found a way to stop President Barack Obama from having a second term, she said.
On his Web site, Pileggi disagreed.
“Numerous studies across the United States have shown that existing voter ID laws have had no negative effect on voter turnout and participation,” stated the senator, a former mayor of Chester, Delaware County.
However, Singer said, about 11 percent of Americans don’t have government-issued photo IDS. The law discriminates against those citizens by making it more difficult to vote. About 25 percent of black adults don’t have government-issued photo ID, she said, compared to 8 percent non-minority adults. ••EndFragment