Yesterday, I testified before the House State Government Committee for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania against two proposed bills, one to require voters to produce photo identification cards at the polls and the other provided a mechanism for election officials to create photo identification cards and keep a photo of all voters on file.
Pennsylvania is one of many states with active legislation proposing to increase identification requirements for voters. Pennsylvania’s bill is typical, requiring that voters produce a federal or state-issued photo ID on Election Day and failing that, a voter may cast a provisional ballot. Pennsylvania gives 6 days for a voter to get to the county seat to sign an affidavit to validate a provisional ballot if they cannot produce an ID on Election Day.
On behalf of Brennan Center for Justice I argued that the photo identification bill raised some concerns about its constitutionality. I noted that there are costly implementation steps including: providing free ids for those who need them, providing education to Pennsylvania’s voters about the law change, administrative costs and ensuring access to the ID-issuing offices may require opening additional offices or extending hours for persons to get a PA identification card. Finally, I noted that the bill would not improve the quality of Pennsylvania’s elections. In addition to myself, Karen C. Buck, Executive Director of the SeniorLAW Center in Pennsylvania spoke ably about the serious impact this bill will have on her constituents in Pennsylvania’s senior community.
Testifying in support of the bills were Attorney Michael Bekesha from Judicial Watch, Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow for The Heritage Foundation (although not representing the Heritage Foundation), Attorney Heather S. Heidelbaugh of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) (although not representing the RNLA). They raised the usual arguments as to why the suppressive nature of these bills is outweighed by the knowledge that this will ensure that the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections will remain secure. Mr. Don Adams of the Independence Hall Tea Party Association was also scheduled to testify, but was unable to appear due to timing conflicts.
Every testifier and legislator played their part as anticipated. There were fewer witnesses permitted against the bill than its supporters, the questioning split along party lines with the anticipated softballs and tough questions. My favorite was when the minority leader, Rep. Babette Josephs asked Mr. von Spakovsky how forcing voters to provide photo identification would affect his “parade of horribles” examples of voter fraud. He replied, that it would have no effect, but he was asked about voter fraud, not photo identification requirements.
Apart from the bill author, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, noting that Pennsylvania would not have to pay for identification for those already holding drivers’ licenses and Mr. von Spakovsky noting that the state would not have to pay for the underlying requirements to obtain a photo identification card, neither of which Brennan Center alleged would be costs to Pennsylvania – no testifier or legislator was able to answer the charge that the cost to Pennsylvania would be significant, in a budget year where there are heated budget battles to rectify the $4 Billion budget shortfall.
In the current economic climate, where there is no agreement or definition of the severity of the alleged problem, now is not the time to redirect scarce resources to fix an indefinable non-problem and create clearly definable new ones. Pennsylvania is not alone and Pennsylvania taxpayers may be joined by others all over the country to pay for this anti-fix of a non-problem.