The Pennsylvania voter ID bill has churned up a lot of controversy. In its design to include safeguards to protect voters while preserving the integrity of the voting process, the law has also left many voters feeling disenfranchised.
Previously, only first-time voters were required to show a photo ID. Now, each voter will be required to present proof of identification, in the form of an accepted photo ID, when he or she appears to vote in any election.
The original version of the new law allowed only for identification issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. The Senate amended it to allow the use of badges issued to county and municipal employees, unexpired photo identifications issued by colleges, universities and care facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal care boarding homes. The new law also provided for religious exemptions.
A lawsuit, brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, challenging the new voting requirements as a violation of the state constitution, is scheduled for hearings Wednesday in Harrisburg.
Now the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation of the voter ID law, asking for documentation so that they may properly evaluate Pennsylvania’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting-rights laws.
That’s the stuff that makes front page news in the mainstream media and keeps the dailies selling newspapers, the bloggers blogging away and the public in the dark about ongoing changes to the law.
Among the changes recently made to the requirements and taking effect beginning in the last week of August, when the new cards are supposed to become available, is that citizens will not have to produce birth certificates and Social Security cards as is currently required, to prove their identities to PennDOT personnel. The new photo ID cards will be available to registered voters who can provide a birth date, Social Security number, and two proofs of residency, such as utility bills. PennDOT will immediately check with the Department of State on the voter’s registration status and, if the status is confirmed, issue a voter ID card on the spot.
Look for that news buried inside the newspapers or absent from the bloggers’ sites.
The voter ID bill is not perfect and people on both sides of the issue need to continue to work towards a satisfactory solution. Those on the pro side continue to make changes to make it easier to obtain the photo ID. Those against the bill will be in court to have the whole thing wiped off the books. One could opine that the changes being made are a result of the upcoming court battle.
As opined in an earlier editorial, taxpayers will pay the cost of the litigations and only the lawyers will win.
The recent change in the requirements is an example of compromises and changes that should have come earlier while Act 18 was still a bill in the state legislature instead of a reaction to dissent and further information gathering.
The taxpayers can’t afford to pay for unnecessary litigation.