With the Pennsylvania primary election taking place this past Tuesday April 24th, voters had a snap shot look at some conditions to expect with the upcoming November general election.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently signed a voter suppression bill, HB 934, into law that will go into effect in November. It requires voters in the state to show a state-issued photo ID in order to vote. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice found that seniors, African-Americans, and low-income citizens are disproportionately less likely to have this kind of ID.
Concern about the bill began to come into bubble up over the course of the Tuesday primary. Signs were posted at polling sites stating that voters should be prepared to show their ID’s in order to vote, even though the law hasn’t yet gone into effect.
Many voters who were exercising their rights this past Tuesday experienced new obstacles to casting their ballot. At one polling location, in Cumberland County, voters encountered several signs with a large font heading reading “ID Required to Vote.” Below the large heading was a poorly photocopied news article that explained a state issued photo ID would be required to vote in November. Earlier in the day, a State Representative’s staff person observed four voters reading the signs and then turning away without voting. The staff person was able to catch them and explain that photo ID’s are not required to vote until November and they then proceeded in to the polling location.
This is just one account; reports throughout the day indicated extreme confusion and misleading information given across the state. Not coincidentally, there was a very low voter turnout at the polls. One can only imagine how much the misleading photo ID signs and other confusing misinformation contributed to the low turnout.
Even before Pennsylvania Working America members saw this law in action, they were very concerned. Terry, a Working America member in from Ardmore, was livid. “As a senior citizen and lifetime voter, I am outraged at the thought of a voter ID law that would disenfranchise so many voters in the state,” Terry mentioned.
Terry went on to express her concern by writing a letter to the editor of the Main Line Times:
As a senior citizen I am outraged about HB934 the “voter ID bill” recently signed into law by Governor Corbett. HB 934 mandates voters to produce photo IDs issued by the federal and state governments, a university, or a long term care facility, before casting a ballot.
This law will suppress votes of the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities, and violates the Pennsylvania constitution mandate of free and equal elections. A Think Tank group is estimating that this law will cost at least $11 million. Voter ID laws are expensive. With budget shortfalls already cutting numerous programs, Pennsylvania can’t afford this legislation.
Terry is right: we need to protect the right to vote in Pennsylvania and across the country. With the primary now behind, it’s time to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are able to exercise their voting rights in November.