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Last week, Pennsylvania took a step closer to joining the ranks of states with strict photo voter ID laws, mandating that citizens have state-issued photo identification cards to vote. The bill reeks of Tea Party and ALEC influence, as is the case in most all other states that have passed similar voter ID bills. Eight states already have such laws set for November, and several others are debating them. Pennsylvania would be a particularly significant addition to the list, given its history as a key swing state in presidential elections.
The Brennan Center for Justice estimates as many as five million registered voters could have trouble on Election Day due to new voting laws.
On March 7, Pennsylvania’s Senate passed HB 934, the photo voter ID mandate bill, with all Republican votes, after the House of Representatives passed a stricter version last year. The House is expected to approve the Senate’s version when it comes back their way and Republican Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign it into law. It will go into effect for the November presidential elections.
As was the case in almost all of the other states with photo voter ID laws, the legislation was passed with purely Republican votes, and will be signed into law by a Republican governor. Only Rhode Island has passed a photo voter ID bill with Democratic support.
“When you look closer at the data, it becomes clear that particular communities will be disproportionately impacted by this bill,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Seniors, racial minorities, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities are more likely to not have ID than the majority population.”
The Republican who introduced the Pennsylvania bill, Representative Daryl Metcalfe, happens to have a long record of introducing (and passing) conservative legislation, most notoriously for harsh legislation against immigrants.
A glance at his list of legislation for the 2011-12 regular session reveals a flock of bills that infringe upon the rights of minorities: an “illegal immigration” bill, a “definition of marriage” anti-same sex marriage bill, a “right to work” anti-union bill, and a “14th Amendment Misapplication” bill, which would “clarify” the U.S. Constitution amendment that not only granted citizenship to slaves, but to any child born in the United States. According to Rep. Metcalfe, this amendment has been used incorrectly, particularly in the case of children born to Latino immigrants. Under his new bill, citizenship would only be granted to a child “with at least one parent who owes no allegiance to any foreign country or a child without citizenship or nationality in any foreign country.”