Tag Archives: politics

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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Education: A Rising Issue in the Upcoming Presidential Election?

By Stacey J. Haseleu

The 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the public’s opinion on education shows that only 35% of those polled believe the biggest problem is “lack of financial support.”  With 26,000 teachers and administrators walking off the job inChicago,IL, the nation’s third largest public school system, it’s hard to believe that the other 65% of those polled do not recognize lack of funding as the biggest issue.

Up until the Chicago strikes, education took a back seat to issues such as the economy, healthcare reform, and the war in the Middle East for the upcoming Presidential election.  The strike comes at a time when educational concerns are rising, especially in states such as Pennsylvania, which experienced drastic funding cuts over the last year.

In May 2012, a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials found that during the 2011-2012 school year, education funding was cut by almost $1 billion.  As a result, Pennsylvania school districts eliminated more than 14,000 jobs through furloughs or by attrition, leaving the positions of retiring teachers unfilled and increasing class sizes in 70% of the state’s school districts.

Diane Metz, a 30-year-old teacher at a troubled PA high school says, “I have fellow teachers who lost their jobs. I know fellow teachers who felt “forced” to retire. I have a contract with minimal raises over the next three years because the district cannot afford to pay us even cost of living increases.”

The loss of teachers has resulted in larger class sizes for students.  Metz says, “I have class sizes of 28-29 students because we do not have the means to hire more teachers.”

With the absence of restored state funding for the 2012-2013 school year, class sizes and the number of unemployed teachers is expected to continue to grow.

Nancy Mesko, a 58-year-old optician blames the state government.  She says, “Corbett has taken away much of the funding which eliminated many teachers and cut programs for schools, he also did not apply for the extra funding from the federal government which President Obama offered to the states.  It would have helped keep teachers employed.”

Some local school unions are trying to work around the furloughs imposed by the budget cuts.  Thomas Nickovich, a 35-year-old teacher says, “I was impacted by having to take a pay freeze for two school years and I will not be able to gain back those two lost years of proper pay increases.”

His wife, former teacher Olivia Nickovich, 34, explains, “The threat of furloughs in the school district caused the union to call for a pay freeze. The teachers voted it in to save jobs.”

Amidst the threat of furloughs and pay freezes, teachers must also struggle to ensure their students meet the requirements of nation-wide standardized testing implemented by former President George W. Bush in 2001 through “No Child Left Behind”.  Most teachers admit the stricter standards on testing are improving test scores, but emphasis on testing creates controversy surrounding how children learn and teacher focus.

Kristin Grace, 26, a teacher at a PA charter school says, “I am very against the PSSAs [Pennsylvania System of School Assessment] because I think the tests are ruining the education system. I believe children are being over-tested and we’re starting to leave out all other aspects of learning just to prepare for a test.”

With furloughs, pay freezes, and the stress of getting students to score well on tests, many teachers believe too much emphasis is placed on them and not enough on state and federal governments and the responsibility of parents.

Steve Tomkowitz, a 30-year-old teacher in a troubled PA high school says, “Education as a whole in the state and country needs addressed. Too often I find that teachers are blamed for all the troubles that schools encounter and no blame is placed on societal changes, absentee parenting, and societal values about education.”

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