Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed and Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a controversial new measure that will require voters to show a photo identification card at polling places beginning with the general election in November.
Many are decrying the new legislation as a threat to disenfranchise as many as 11 percent of eligible voters who do not possess a government photo ID card, many of whom are senior citizens.
"This legislation ignores the tremendous inconvenience it will create for seniors who don't have a driver's license,” said state Rep. Bob Freeman, D-136.
“With limited or no public transportation to suburban PennDOT photo centers, this proposal puts a tremendous barrier in the way of seniors legitimately registered to vote as they seek to cast their ballot."
Among those who oppose the law are the League of Women Voters, AARP and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which says that the law will place undue stress on those who supervise elections at the voting booth.
The bill passed the House, primarily along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposing. In the Bethlehem area, Democratic Reps. , and Freeman all voted against the legislation. Rep. Marcia Hahn, R-138, voted for it.
"This bill is unnecessary and a real threat to disenfranchise voters," said Freeman during the bill's debate in the House chamber. "If you look at the cases of voter fraud, there have only been four voters convicted since 2004. As the Philadelphia Inquirer so aptly put it, this is a 'fix in search of a problem.'”
Republicans who back the legislation say the law is aimed at preventing voter fraud. But, as Freeman points out, there is little to support any claim that voter fraud is rampant in the Commonwealth.
Some Democrats say it is merely a thinly veiled effort to suppress votes from traditional Democratic constituencies – such as the elderly, the disabled, minorities and youth – in time for the 2012 Presidential election.
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