Back in March, Pennsylvania joined 15 other states in enacting discriminatory, politically-motivated voter ID bills. Without a single Democrat voting in favor of the legislation, Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed HB 934 into law.
Now, some Republicans are speaking honestly about their motivation in passing the law. At a recent Pennsylvania Republican State Committee meeting, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) made clear the partisan motivation behind voter ID laws. In listing achievements of the Pennsylvania GOP -- some as a result of ALEC model legislation -- Turzai said, "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.” As the video shows, his statement is met by applause from the Republican audience.
To curb the effects of the new restrictions on eligible voters, government officials in Pennsylvania have embarked on a state voter education tour. But the restrictions are proving too complicated even for state officials. Secretary of State Carol Aichele showed her state photo ID during one such outreach effort at a local editorial board meeting, only to find that her state-issued photo ID was not acceptable: It didn't have an expiration date.
If you've been following our campaign pushing back against voter suppression efforts, then you know that far-right groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been instumental in passing voter ID bills across the country -- particularly in battle ground states like Pennsylvania. These laws place an added burden on Black folks, low-income communities, and elderly voters. A recent Colorlines article profiles one such voter:
Take the example of Henrietta Kay Dickerson, 75, of Pittsburgh, a black woman who was born in Louisiana. She came to Pennsylvania as an infant and grew up her whole life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the historical black neighborhood immortalized in the plays of August Wilson. In May last year her state ID expired. She went to the state’s department of transportation where she was refused a free voter ID card, even after she paid the $13.50 fee, according to her account in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The Advancement Project against the state, which says the law violates voting rights granted by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Pennsylvania students could also be turned away from the polls in November, as many student IDs will no longer be accepted. Given what's at stake in this state and across the country, we all must remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our vote. We can start by reaching out to corporations that help finance groups like ALEC. Please join us here.