2011-06-30 / Local & State

Pa.Voter ID Bill Would Allow Amish No Photo

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – Amish voters in Pennsylvania would be included in a requirement to show government issued identification in each election under legislation approved by the state House last week, but they could get an exemption from the requirement for a photo on the ID card.

Lawmakers tell the (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/ Lancaster New Era that Plain sect voters would be able to get a religious exemption from the provision requiring a photograph on identification cards. But to do so, they will have to clear more regulatory hurdles than the average voter, since getting such a card involves providing the state Department of Transportation with a statement of their beliefs signed by their church district’s bishop.

“It’s actually harder to get that ID than just a driver’s license,” said Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester, who wrote the bill’s exemption provisions. “They have to show a state-issued ID just like other voters. They’re not getting a pass.”

Under current law, voters must show ID only the first time they vote, and can use documents without a photo such as voter cards, utility bills and bank statements. Under the bill approved Thursday by the House, voters would be required to show a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot in any election.

Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, voted against the legislation, saying it would suppress turnout. He also said instances of misrepresentation at the polls are extraordinarily rare, citing data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing showing only four cases of misrepresentation at Pennsylvania polls since 2004 out of 19.4 million ballots cast.

“The reality is, impersonating somebody at a voting place is the rarest form of voter fraud there is,” Sturla said.

Lawrence said he worked with Amish leaders to craft a suitable amendment allowing them to forego the photo requirement.

“They have to present a printout form that says, ‘I have a religious objection to being photographed. I’m a member of XYZ church,’ and then the Amish bishop must sign off on the bottom of the form,” Lawrence said.

PennDOT will check the bishop’s name in its records and then issue a nonphoto ID.

Those who choose not to apply for a government ID would still be able to cast a provisional ballot, but the legislation would require them to return to the county courthouse within six days to prove who they are.

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