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Voter “Suppression” Bill Disenfranchises Thousands of Pennsylvania Voters, Senator Hughes Says

HARRISBURG, March 7, 2012 – – Following the state Senate’s approval of House Bill 934, the so-called Voter ID bill, Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) decried its passage, stating that it would only serve to disenfranchise many voters in Pennsylvania.

Calling the legislation the “Voter Suppression Bill,” Hughes said that the bill would not only eliminate voters from exercising their Constitutional right to vote, but it would cost Pennsylvania approximately $4.3 million.

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“Voting is a constitutional right.  Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, this bill would actually suppress the right to vote for many eligible voters in Pennsylvania who do not have a photo ID,” Hughes said.   “House Bill 934 is a costly solution, looking for a virtually non-existent problem.”

Hughes stated that 340,000 Pennsylvania seniors do not have a state-issued photo I.D.  In addition, minorities, the disabled and young people will be disproportionately impacted.

“Vulnerable citizens are having their medical assistance taken away, their access to food stamps blocked and now they will have their vote suppressed,” Hughes said. “It is shameful and unwarranted, especially in light of the need for solutions to much larger issues, like protecting the social safety net, job creation and growing Pennsylvania’s economy.

“The provisions of this bill almost amount to a poll tax, requiring mostly seniors to spend their valuable dollars to obtain a photo ID.”

Hughes added that in the 2008 election, there were only 4 cases of voter fraud reported in Pennsylvania, out of the 8.73 million registered voters.  Since 2004, Pennsylvania has cast 20 million votes and had 4 convictions for voter fraud.

A national study conducted by President George Bush’s Justice Department found only 86 cases of fraud in the United States between 2002 and 2007 out of 300 million votes cast.

“The sad fact is that this bill isn’t about protecting the integrity of elections,” Hughes said.  “It’s about disenfranchising people and suppressing voter turnout, plain and simple. With very little evidence of voter fraud, this bill is completely unnecessary.”

Hughes made several attempts to amend House Bill 934 to soften the burden of the requirements of the bill.  These amendments included:

 

  • Permitting a voter to use an expired photo ID as long as the ID has not been expired for over a year.
  • Requiring PennDOT to ensure that facilities that issue identification cards are open during time that the polls are open on the date of a primary or general election so a voter can get an ID.
  • Allowing school district issued ID’s to be added to the list of acceptable forms of ID for voting.

 

These amendments were defeated along party lines.  House Bill 934 passed the Senate with a vote of 26-23, largely along party lines.

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