Pennsylvania Democrats have seized upon a comment by state House Majority
Leader Mike Turzai suggesting Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law was devised for political purposes.
Speaking to the summer GOP state committee meeting in Hershey Saturday, Turzai, R-Allegheny, said the law requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID in order to cast their ballot was meant help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania and become President of the United States.
“Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done,” he told the assemblage of Pennsylvania GOP functionaries, hoping to get a rise out of a subdued crowd.
At the same meeting, state party Chairman Rob Gleason reportedly identified the new law as a key aide for Romney to carry Pennsylvania – a state last won by a Republican presidential candidate in 1988.
Democrats wasted little time this week pouncing on Turzai’s comments as justification of their fears that the three-month-old law was not intended to safeguard against voter fraud. Tuesday, they gathered for a capitol news conference to condemn Turzai and said the GOP was orchestrating a nationally strategy to disenfranchise American citizens.
State Sen. Daylen Leach, D-Montgomery County, said he didn’t think Republicans’ admission of the tactic made them dishonorable, but added that their “ideas suck.”
“I’m sure they’re very nice to their mother,” Leach said. “It’s not about being honorable people … You can’t make a global statement about someone’s honorability, but I will say this: It is not an honorable piece of legislation.”
Democrats argue that the law puts up hurdles to legitimate voter participation, which has hovered around 50 percent for a generation. They suggested several situations that the law does not address, including senior immigrants who’s birth certificates in their native countries may no longer exist.
“The nuns in this state will not be allowed to vote,” said state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, arguing that many have drivers licenses under their birth names, but are registered to vote under their church names. “That goes the same for married women. If a women got married and changed her last name and didn’t re-register, they will not be allowed to vote.”
Republicans seem to have indirectly agreed with some Democrat concerns. Since the bill became law in March, they’ve altered it to be more inclusive.
In addition to funding a voter ID education program through the state’s public libraries — an initiative some Democrats say will cost between $5-11 million — GOP lawmakers have accommodated religious groups that object to having their pictures taken.
The legislature also scaled back the law for native born Pennsylvanians, who will no longer be required to produce a birth certificate to get the state-issued photo ID.
Those adjustments haven’t halted liberal challenges to the law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People begin their court assault on the law July 25.
Meanwhile, senate Democrats are also gathering data from the 2012 state primary and an August special election that they hope will fuel a separate challenge.