On June 23rd the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 934, a bill that would require voters to always show unexpired government-issued photo ID before casting a vote in an election. This is a stricter measure than current law which only requires citizens to show a photo ID the first time they vote. Supporters argued that the bill is a benign piece of legislation to discourage voter fraud. However, there is little evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Pennsylvania and, as Rep. Babette Josephs noted in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, requiring photo IDs before every vote would “disenfranchise poor, elderly, and minority voters.”
A 2006 study by New York University’s Brennan Center showed that 11% of U.S. citizens do not have the kind of identification that HB 934 would require. The study also found “that those without ID are disproportionately citizens over the age of 65, citizens who are African-Americans and citizens who earn less than $35,000 annually.” Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said that this bill is likely to disenfranchise groups even beyond those identified in the Brennan Center’s study. He said, “it is…reasonable to assume that victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, recently released inmates, and citizens who are homeless are less likely to have government-issued ID.” Shula Asher Silberstein also points out that trans individuals are more likely to be questionedabout th eir identity at their polling place if their government-issued identification does not reflect their gender identity. For this reason, the bill would make it more likely that trans voters will stay home if they do not wish to announce that they are trans in a public place.
In addition to hurting Pennsylvanians through disenfranchising many communities, the bill would cost taxpayers up to 11 million dollars for a problem that does not exist. Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski pointed out that since 2004, 20 million votes have been cast in Pennsylvania and there have been only six people arrested for voter fraud. He said “that’s negligible and certainly not enough to spend millions of dollars and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.” Even the non-partisan County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania has weighed in on the ridiculousness of this bill. Doug Hill, the Association’s executive director told the Philadelphia Inquirer that no county had reported even a suspicion of significant voter fraud.
HB 934, to quote Rep. Pashinski talking to The Times Leader, “is a solution in search of a problem.” Voting fraud in Pennsylvania is not a problem, but the disenfranchisement of U.S. citizens and the enormous cost to taxpayers that this legislation would cause is. The bill is now headed to the state Senate where it will likely be voted on in the fall. We will keep you updated about any developments on this issue.