Voter ID Law in PA Postponed: A Look at Both Sides of the Argument

The line at the community food pantry extends around the block on a blustery, fall day in Pittsburgh, Pa.  Some of those in line traveled on a bus for miles to stock up on food for their children for the week.  Thankfully, public transportation is available for these individuals to reach the food pantry, but many in line are unable to find transportation to the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a valid photo ID for the upcoming Presidential elections.

Chelsea Holmes, a 25-year-old graduate student and food pantry volunteer says, “Many of the people I serve do not have valid forms of photo ID. They use public transportation to and from work and cannot afford a car (therefore no driver’s license) or a passport. In order to go to the DMV, they would have to take at least a 45 minute bus ride and/or take off work. It just is not feasible for some people.”

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled the controversial voter ID law requirement will be postponed from taking effect for this year’s upcoming Presidential elections.  Although voters will be asked to show their ID, they will not be required to present a valid photo ID until next year.

This decision marks the end of a controversial debate plaguing the state of Pennsylvania since March of 2012 when Governor Tom Corbett and Republican House Majority leader Mike Turzai passed the bill that would require all Pennsylvania voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to cast their vote. Controversy erupted when Turzai said the new law would “allow Governor Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” in the upcoming Presidential election.

After this statement many voters felt the bill was a Republican tactic to prevent registered democratic voters from voting for President Obama in the upcoming election.

Independent voter and stay at home mother Erin Zowacki says, “If the law was based on preventing fraud, it would have either been proposed right after the last election or since the law passed recently, it shouldn’t take effect until the 2016 election. They must think that they have an advantage by having the law passed and implemented immediately.”

But Republican voters disagree and believe that the voter ID law was long overdue.  If you have to present a photo ID to cash a check, get a library card, buy alcohol and cigarettes, and use a credit card, you should be required to present ID for something as important as voting for the President of the United States of America.

Self-identified conservative Greg Higgins from Mount Pleasant, PA says, “Verification of who you are cannot merely be done by the people who man the polling places, you could very easily sign for someone under a different name. This small matter of showing a valid photo ID, which is provided free of charge, is a very simple way of verifying you are who you say you are. This requirement for a photo ID does not exclude anyone who is eligible to vote.”

But 30-year-old Counselor and registered Democrat Jennifer Conte disagrees.  She says, “None of the other activities mentioned above are rights. Voting is a right, not a privilege. Additionally, cashing a check, using credits and many other activities are highly cultural. There are many groups of people that do not do these activities on a regular basis.”

With regards to why the law implementation is being postponed, Judge Simpson stated, “”I am still not convinced … that there will be no voter disenfranchisement…”

Adam Raviart, a 30-year-old registered Democrat agrees that the new law will disenfranchise voters.  He says, “I feel this will affect low income individuals, senior citizens, minorities and people with disabilities. I feel this new law may cause some people to become frustrated and simply not attempt to vote. This law will strip certain citizen’s from their right to vote for their president.”

But registered Republican Julianne Cochran disagrees.  The 48-year-old Certified Nurse Practitioner says, “I do not believe anyone will be disenfranchised by this law.  If someone is going to enact their constitutional right to vote then I don’t believe anything will stand in their way.  You will always have those individuals that choose not to enact their right, but place the blame on everyone else knowing that they wouldn’t have voted anyway.”

Cochran also states, “it will certainly decrease the amount of voter ID fraud that currently takes place in some areas of the country.”  But many investigations into the prevalence of voter ID fraud come up short.

CBS Evening News reporter Elaine Quijano investigated how many reported cases of fraud there have been.  In her August 15th report  she says, “We looked at those 10 states which recently passed photo ID laws and found fewer than 70 voter fraud convictions in the past decade among 40 million registered voters.”

Phil Hirschkorn of CBS news reported on September 28, 2012 “In Pennsylvania, the state stipulated there have been no cases of voter fraud in the past decade.”

But the absence of convictions, those in favor of the voter ID law say, does not mean that voter ID fraud isn’t taking place.  It just means the individuals aren’t being caught or prosecuted.

A 33-year-old Pittsburgh Police officer who asked to be identified as “Stephen” is a registered Democrat; however, he says, “Being able to prove you are who you say you are, especially when participating in one of the most important actions that we do as citizens, is important.”

So the debate among voters will continue on beyond the Presidential election of 2012.  There is not strong evidence that voter fraud is committed on a regular basis in the state of Pennsylvania.  Conversely, it is not clear how many individuals who would actually vote would be impacted by this law.

So, for now, the only clear fact we know prior to the impending election is that those planning on voting in the state of Pennsylvania this November will be asked to provide identification, but it will not be required to cast their vote this year.

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