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Pa. Senate to vote on voter photo ID bill

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania opposes the legislation

March 06, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill requiring the state’s voters to present photo identification at the polls.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed voter-identification legislation several months ago and will review it again after Senate amendments, according to state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

Kauffman said he initially hoped the April 24 primary election could be a trial run for the new requirements. Among them are presenting a photo ID issued by the government, accredited colleges and universities, or nursing and personal care homes.

“I don’t know right now what the timeline will be,” Kauffman said. “I don’t know if it’s feasible that it will be implemented for the primary, but I expect it will be implemented for the fall.”

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Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioners Chairman David Keller said he would prefer the provisions go into effect after the 2012 election season.

“Rolling it out in a presidential election year will probably exacerbate the issues because we have a higher turnout,” Keller said.

The Franklin County Board of Elections and its staff will fully cooperate with any new law affecting its 73,000 voters, he said.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania opposes the bill, which it warns could create longer Election Day lines at polling places. In a letter to lawmakers, the association also said county commissioners have not heard allegations of voter impersonation from voters or poll workers.

Kauffman said there are always stories of voter fraud and irregularities, particularly in the Philadelphia area. TheU.S. Justice Department does not always pursue those cases, he said.

“It’s monumentally difficult to track down these phantom folks who may be perpetuating voter fraud,”

Kauffman said, saying he has heard stories of votes being cast for dead people.

However, “I genuinely don’t believe there’s much voter fraud in our area,” he said.

“Here (in south-central Pennsylvania), I don’t think it’s a problem, but we need to look at the whole state,” said state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin.

Rock said he does not understand why Democrats have come out in opposition to the measure.

“I don’t want to make it too burdensome for people to vote ... (but) I think if you are registered to vote, I don’t get why you wouldn’t want to show ID,” he said.

Under current Pennsylvania law, people are required to show identification only when voting in a polling place for the first time, but a photo ID is not the only kind allowed.

Acceptable forms of ID can include a firearms permit, a current utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck as long as they have a name and address, while photo IDs can include a student or employee ID. A poll worker still can request that a voter show identification at any time, though.

Legislative leaders from both chambers are working to ensure changes to the bill are acceptable, Kauffman said.

“There’s absolutely no intention whatsoever on my part or from anyone else I know in elected office to suppress voter turnout,” Kauffman said. “It’s simply (designed) to ensure every vote cast legally is not canceled out by one cast illegally.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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