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Start­Frag­ment

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

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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