Sen. Tracy Pennycuick: PA Needs Photo Voter ID
(This article first appeared in Broad+Liberty)
Pennsylvania’s failure to enact a key component of election integrity has put it behind not only a vast majority of states and most developed countries, but behind many developing nations as well.
The lack of a voter ID requirement in our commonwealth is even more frustrating because an overwhelming number of citizens polled have voiced support for this commonsense measure.
The Pennsylvania Senate recently acted to remedy this embarrassing situation by passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to finally decide the issue themselves. Implementing these voter verification standards will help weed out any bad actors and ensure legal, legitimate votes are the only votes that are counted.
Election security is not a one-party issue. Many claims have been filed in courts by both Democrats and Republicans throughout the years, questioning the validity of voters. The goal of this is to erase those concerns.
Every excuse used to block this rational election reform has been shown to be false. Requiring proof of identification before voting does not suppress turnout, and acceptable IDs are not difficult to obtain.
Opponents of voter verification proposals have made false claims that the legislation would reduce voter turnout and have a disproportionate impact on African American and other minority voters.
This is strictly not true. In some cases, the opposite has been true.
For instance, when photo ID was added as a requirement in Georgia, overall turnout and African American turnout went up, not down. Academic studies and large surveys conducted of non-voters by both liberal and conservative entities consistently show voter ID laws don’t keep people from voting regardless of their age, sex, race, income and education.
Most developed countries, and many developing ones, have voter photo ID requirements. They also have higher voter turnout than the United States.
In fact, voter ID requirements are the norm around the world. All 27 European Union countries require photo identification for voting. Mexico and Columbia require government-issued biometric IDs to vote.
Canada requires voter ID, which must be a driver’s license, or any other card issued by a Canadian government with photo, name and current address. If the individual doesn’t have one of those, the voter must present at the polls at least two pieces of ID with his or her name and at least one current address such as a birth certificate and a residential lease.
IDs are not difficult to obtain. Voters have fifteen ID options approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Any individual who does not possess a valid form of ID could receive one at no cost to ensure no voter is prevented from participating in the election process.
Nationally, the calls for voter ID come from Democrats and Republicans alike. The 2005 Bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, recommended voter identification in its final report.
Former President Carter said requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls was just as “practical” as the many other ID requirements of daily life. “Americans have to remember you have to have the equivalent to what we’re requiring to cast a ballot to cash a check or board a plane,” he noted.
A Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote. A Monmouth University poll found that 80 percent of Americans favor voter ID nationwide.
If voter ID is not a barrier to voting and the people want it, why does Pennsylvania remain so out of step on this issue? The first obstacle was former Gov. Tom Wolf. The General Assembly passed a voter ID requirement in 2021, but the governor vetoed it.
Unwilling to let the voice of the people fall on deaf ears, lawmakers in the previous legislative session passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bypass the governor and send the question straight to the voters as a ballot question.
Constitutional amendments must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions before they can go before the voters. The Senate did so this month, sending the measure to the House of Representatives, which also needs to pass the proposal in order to have the question placed on the ballot.
Voting is a cherished right. Confidence in our elections is vital to holding our good and decent republic together. Unfortunately, polls in recent years indicate that more than half of voters in Pennsylvania question the outcome of elections. This cannot go unaddressed.
The House of Representatives should pass voter ID legislation immediately and let the voters decide in this year’s primary election.
Sen. Tracy Pennycuick represents the 24th Senatorial District, covering northern Montgomery County and southeastern Berks County.