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Pennsylvania’s proposed voter photo ID law

by rescuetruth on June 22nd, 2011

Pennsylvania House Bill 934If enacted, Pennsylvania House Bill 934 would require all voters to present an approved form of identification in order to vote.  At face value, some individuals might not be opposed to such legislation, as they believe it would prevent voter fraud.  First, the photo ID law purports to solve a problem that is nearly nonexistent—one Pennsylvanian called the law “a solution in search of a problem.”  Second, the law would undoubtedly disenfranchise certain groups of voters.  Lastly, the voter ID law would suppress voter turnout, which is already extremely low in the United States.

The current process already includes an identification requirement, which states that voters must provide an approved photo ID, utility bill, bank statement, etc.  After that, voters are required to provide their signature, which is compared against past signatures each election.  If a voter changes polling locations, that person must this process.

Compared to other democracies, the 55 percent voter turnout rate in the United States is embarrassingly low.  In many states, voter registration requirements are extremely restrictive, and certain aspects of the electoral process are handled illogically.  Italy, Austria, Germany, and France have voter turnout rates between 80 and 85 percent.  Belgium boasts an impressive 90 percent voter turnout rate.

The majority of developed democracies with high voter turnout rates offer automatic registration, and have declared Election Day a national holiday to allow all citizens to easily participate in the democratic process.  In the U.S., the states with friendlier voter registration laws have improved turnout rates, especially those that have instituted same-day registration.  In the United States, however, it appears as though the government is interested in doing more to hinder the electoral process than to allow it to flourish.

If Pennsylvania is to tackle electoral reform, it ought to base its agenda on improving voter turnout, not suppressing it.  Much can be done to bring voter turnout rates in line with other forms of political participation, and turnout in other democracies.  Pennsylvania House Bill 934 might be politically convenient for some lawmakers, but it will unjustly and unnecessarily hinder the democratic process, and diminish voter turnout.

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  • http://twitter.com/moeursalen anthony moeursalen

    I have an acquaintance who became a naturalized U.S. Citizen.  However, he told me that he voted twice in national elections before he became a citizen. 

  • http://twitter.com/rescuetruth Chris Strosser

    Photo ID laws address a very, very specific problem—cases of identity fraud.  As stated in the article, Pennsylvania already requires voters to provide identification the first time they vote, and a matching signature from that point forward.  This system is very effective in combating identity fraud, which is nearly nonexistent in Pennsylvania.

    If your acquaintance has voted in national elections, he was probably able to register to vote under his name.  If this was the case, I think we can agree that the problem lies on the voter registration end of this equation.

    If properly instituted, automatic registration can completely resolve this type of problem.  A proper automatic registration system would ensure all citizens are automatically registered to vote upon reaching the legal voting age. Automatic registration could prevent the errors that come with self-filed registration forms, and allow for a quick comparison of government records to ensure each person is allowed to vote.

    An automatic registration system would also increase civic participation, and subsequently, the strength of our democracy.  Many other well-established democracies have instituted automatic voter registration, so why haven’t we?  The laws we create should encourage civic participation, not suppress it.