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Pennsylvania Enacts Voter Identification Laws

If you want to vote in a public election in Pennsylvania, you must now show a photo ID. The new law, supported primarily by Republican lawmakers, mimics legislation in other GOP-controlled states. Democrats contend that the measures are specifically targeted to suppress voter-turnout by individuals who typically vote Democratic, such as college students and the poor. Civil rights groups have promised to challenge the legislation in court.

Proponents of the act compare it to similar requirements for such acts as obtaining a library card or a drivers license. They view the legislation as a way to minimize the risk of ballot-box fraud. In signing the bill into law, Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania recalled the Supreme Court’s admonition of “one person, one vote,” calling it a “sacred principle” that needed to be protected.

Opponents of the legislation argue that there has been no evidence whatsoever of election fraud in Pennsylvania by individuals without proper identification, and that the legislation will likely have a disparate impact on people who do not have the financial resources to obtain birth certificates or other documents necessary to obtain a photo ID. Republicans counter that 99% of the state’s residents already have the necessary photo identification, and that the Department of Transportation offers a free photo ID to those who need one.

Individuals will be allowed to vote in the Pennsylvania primary on April 24 without a valid picture ID, but must have one for the November 6 general election.

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