2011-10-27 / Local & State

Pa.Voter ID Bill Poised For Changes

By Marc Levy
ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A hotly debated bill that would require voters to show a government issued photo ID before they could cast a ballot will undergo changes to lengthen the list of acceptable IDs, a key Pennsylvania state senator said Friday.

That list in an amendment being written could include work IDs, college student IDs and, for elderly voters, expired driver's licenses, said Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

The bill that passed the Republican controlled House in June over the loud objections of Democrats was too stringent, McIlhinney said. Still, a requirement that some form of photo identification be required is still appropriate to guard against voter fraud, he said.

“We're looking to ensure that there is a voter ID requirement, that people need to produce some type of identification to ensure the one person, one vote rule is not violated,” he said.

McIlhinney said he expects Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, will sign any stronger voter ID requirement that passes the Legislature, and he has discussed the changes with the bill's sponsor, House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, in search of a compromise.

But Metcalfe said Friday that work IDs or college IDs do not meet his threshold for what he views as the strongest possible photo identification requirements.

“There’s some problems when you go to some forms of identification that are not secure,” Metcalfe said.

Sending a bill to Corbett’s desk this year would ensure the changes are in place for next year’s primaries and general election.

Current law in Pennsylvania requires identification only from people voting in a polling place for the first time, but it does not require a photo ID. Acceptable forms of ID can include a firearms permit, a current utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck as long as they have a name and address. However, a poll worker can still request that a voter show identification at any time.

Voter identification has been a hot topic in legislatures around the country this year, with bills introduced in more than 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six states where Republicans control governor’s offices and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – passed photo ID laws this year, bringing the number of states that require a photo ID to 14, according to the NCSL's tally.

An additional 16 states require identification that does not need a photo. Already this year, Democratic governors in five states – Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina – have vetoed stronger voter ID bills sent to them by Republican-controlled legislatures.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers warned that the House bill would keep some people from voting, especially the elderly and minorities. In 2006, then-Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed a similar but lessstringent bill that passed the Republican-controlled Legislature. At the time, Rendell said the identification requirement was a “ruse” to suppress people's right to vote.

Then, as now, Democrats challenged Republicans to find proof that the “one person, one vote” rule is being violated, and Republicans were unable to come up with any.

But McIlhinney said most of his constituents support photo ID for voters and that a requirement in Pennsylvania would at least address the fear of voter fraud.

Under the House bill, a free photo ID would be available through the state Department of Transportation. The bill would allow people without sufficient identification to cast provisional ballots, and then return to the county courthouse within six days to prove who they are.

The bill passed in the House, 108-88, with every Democrat and one Republican voting against it after hours of tense, angry debate.

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