Pennsylvania’s failure to implement a key component of electoral integrity has not only put it behind a large majority of states and most developed countries, but also behind many developing countries.
The lack of a voter ID requirement in our Commonwealth is even more frustrating as an overwhelming number of citizens polled support this sensible measure.
The Pennsylvania Senate recently acted to remedy this embarrassing situation by passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to finally decide the matter for themselves. Implementing these voter verification standards will help weed out any bad actors and ensure only legal, legitimate votes are counted.
Election security is not a one-party issue. Over the years, many lawsuits have been filed in court by both Democrats and Republicans challenging the validity of voters. The aim is to dispel these concerns.
Any excuse used to block this rational electoral reform has been proven wrong. Requiring proof of identity before voting does not stifle voter turnout, and acceptable ID is not hard to come by.
Opponents of voter screening proposals have made false claims that the legislation would reduce turnout and have a disproportionate impact on African American and other minority voters.
Strictly speaking, this is not true. In some cases the opposite was the case.
For example, in Georgia, when photo ID was added as a requirement, overall voter turnout, and African American turnout, did not go down. Academic studies and large polls of non-voters conducted by both liberal and conservative organizations consistently show that voter card laws do not prevent people from voting regardless of age, sex, race, income and education.
Most developed countries and many developing countries have photo ID requirements for voters. They also have higher voter turnout than the United States.
In fact, voter ID requirements are the norm around the world. All 27 countries in the European Union require photo ID to vote. Mexico and Colombia require government-issued biometric IDs to vote.
Canada requires voter identification, which must be a driver’s license or other Canadian government-issued identification with photo, name and current address. If the person does not have one, the voter must present at least two forms of identification with their name and at least one current address such as a birth certificate and apartment lease when voting.
ID cards aren’t hard to come by. Voters have fifteen ID options approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Anyone who does not have a valid ID could be given one free of charge to ensure no voter is prevented from taking part in the voting process.
At the national level, demands for voter IDs are coming from Democrats and Republicans alike. The 2005 bipartisan federal election reform commission, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, recommended voter identification in its final report.
Former President Carter said it was just as “convenient” for voters to show photo ID at the polls as the many other ID requirements of everyday life. “Americans need to remember that they must have the equivalent of what we require to cast a ballot, to cash a check, or to board a plane,” he noted.
A Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support voters having to identify themselves in order to vote. A Monmouth University poll found that 80 percent of Americans nationwide prefer a voter ID.
If voter ID isn’t a barrier to voting and people want it, why is Pennsylvania so out of step on this issue? The first obstacle was former Governor Tom Wolf. The General Assembly passed a voter ID requirement in 2021, but the governor vetoed it.
Not wanting to turn a deaf ear to the voice of the people, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment in the previous legislature that would bypass the governor and send the question directly to voters as a ballot.
Constitutional amendments must be passed in two consecutive legislatures before they can be presented to voters. The Senate did so this month, sending the measure to the House of Representatives, which must also pass the proposal for the issue to go to a vote.
Voting is a right. Confidence in our elections is critical to keeping our good and decent republic together. Unfortunately, polls in recent years show that more than half of Pennsylvania voters question the outcome of the election. This cannot be ignored.
The House of Representatives should pass voter ID legislation immediately and let voters decide in this year’s primary.
Senator Tracy Pennycuick represents the 24th Senate District, covering northern Montgomery County and southeastern Berks County.