The Center Square: Group helps residents overcome voting ID barriers


Group helps residents overcome voting ID barriers
Non-profit organization VoteRiders helps people access vital documents needed to get state-issued photo identification.
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(The Center Square) – The cards may be temporarily stacked against adopting universal voter ID in Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t make the issue moot for residents.

Enter VoteRiders – an organization whose mission it is to fill the gap in the election process. They also recognize that ID is essential for other life events such as housing, employment, health care and social services.

“We’ve seen firsthand how the state’s current voter ID law confuses, intimidates, and disenfranchises eligible voters, especially young people and students, first-time voters, BIPOC communities, and low-income individuals,” said Krystle Knight, the organization’s Pennsylvania coordinator.

VoteRiders help residents obtain and cover the cost of vital documents like birth certificates and social security cards, provide transportation to ID issuing offices, as well as state-specific information on voter ID laws. They also offer information materials to nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations and conduct in-person and virtual training sessions.

Pennsylvania law requires ID for first-time voters in a precinct. Without one, residents must cast a provisional ballot which the county board of elections then reviews and determines eligibility.

Knight said a study the organization funded – along with Public Wise, and conducted by The Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland and the Brennan Center for Justice – showed 14.8% of voting-age U.S. citizens – an estimated 34.5 million – do not have a valid driver’s license or state ID with their current name and address on it.

It’s facts like these that make critics of universal voter ID – namely Democratic lawmakers, who control the House voting schedule – resistant to adopting it in Pennsylvania.

Instead, House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, will soon introduce legislation that would allow early in-person voting and same-day registration, something her spokesperson Nicole Reigelman told The Center Square would modernize the state’s elections – and that “both are used in dozens of other states and supported by a majority of Pennsylvanians.”

“While some lawmakers are intent on expanding Voter ID in Pennsylvania, which has been shown to reduce voter turnout, Speaker McClinton’s bill aims to make voting easier and boost participation,” Reigelman said. “Especially in a battleground state like Pennsylvania, every vote counts and every Pennsylvanian deserves to be heard.”

Republicans, on the other hand, say integrity cannot be sacrificed for convenience, no matter how important the latter may be to lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Legislation pulling back on mail-in voting and banning drop boxes recently passed through the Senate State Government Committee.

Then there’s two proposals from Rep. Thomas Kutz, R-Mechanicsburg, to make universal voter ID state law. One bill mandates the change through statute, while the other gives voters an opportunity to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution to include the rule.

Kutz’s memo seeking bill sponsorship states that polls show large numbers of Americans are in favor of simple and common-sense voter ID requirements, “just as we are asked to use identification in a variety of other and less important transactions in daily life.” Additionally, it says enacting straightforward voter ID requirements will help restore Pennsylvanians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.

Kutz’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, Knight says VoteRiders is watching.

“Our team is closely monitoring these bills as they move through the legislature and will stand ready to help any voter regardless of party to ensure every Pennsylvanian can cast a ballot this November and in every election after,” she said.

Read the original article here.

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