Pennsylvania Becomes First State In 2012 To Enact Voter ID Law

With a stroke of a pen, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians were potentially disenfranchised last night.

Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed into law HB 934, which requires all Pennsylvanians to show a certain form of photo ID in order to be allowed to vote, after the Republican-controlled state legislature approved the bill this week. It will have a disastrous impact on the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who currently lack photo ID, half of whom are senior citizens. With the new voter ID law in place, they would not be permitted to cast a vote in the November general election. (In 2008, a watershed Democratic year, Barack Obama only won the state by 600,000 votes.)

The Montgomery News details which forms of photo ID are acceptable under the new law:

A valid ID would include a driver’s license, military ID, passport, and ID card from state-accredited colleges and universities and state-licensed care facilities. Pennsylvania residents who attend college out-of-state could not use their student IDs to vote.

Not all student IDs are considered acceptable, however. Only student IDs with expiration dates are permissible; those that lack them will not be accepted at the polls.

The law, which will be in effect for November’s presidential election, makes Pennsylvania the ninth state since 2008 to pass a strict voter ID law. A number of other states, like Michigan and Louisiana, request a photo ID at the polls, but unlike strict voter ID states, they still allow people who lack photo ID to vote once they sign an affidavit affirming their identity. In Pennsylvania, those who show up without photo ID will be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot, but it will only be counted if they present acceptable photo ID within the next six days.

Voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina were recently blocked by the Justice Department because of their biased effect on minorities. Those two states have a history of discrimination and must get federal clearance for any changes to their elections under the Voting Rights Act. Pennsylvania, however, is not subject to the Voting Rights Act and does not need preclearance from the Justice Department.

Though voter fraud is as non-existent in Pennsylvania as it is elsewhere in the nation, Republicans in the Keystone State have nevertheless used fraud as justification to enact a law that could bar hundreds of thousands, predominantly minorities and the elderly, from the ballot box.