by Latisha Woodford

Voter fraud is the illegal interference with the process of an election  the Pennsylvanian House Bill  934 purports to remedy voter fraud.  It could be argued, however, that the Bill itself interferes with the election process. Pennsylvania House Bill 934 imposes what can be viewed as a barrier to eligible voting citizens.  This notion was further explained in an interview with Mrs. Sandy Strauss, the Director of Public Advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

The mission of the Council is much broader than the mission for the Council’s advocacy component. Mrs. Strauss describes their advocacy ministry as empowering people of faith, through education and skill-building, to make a difference for the common good in the public square; while advocating on behalf of the Council’s member church bodies before Pennsylvania’s legislative and administrative branches of government. The Council is governed by a set of principles called the “Principles for Public Advocacy.” These principles are based on scriptural interpretation and determine the position taken by the Council’s twenty member denominations at the national level. The latest draft of a revised set of existing principles say:

“We believe that all persons should have a voice in government at all levels—including the right to vote—and that access is not limited because of situational factors such as economic disadvantages or distance, or demographic characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, disability, or sexual orientation.  This includes convicted felons who have completed their jail sentences and have entered back into society.”

Its is from the belief, established by the aforementioned principle, that the Council disfavors the Pennsylvania House Bill 934. The Council believes that the proposed Voter ID legislation would serve to limit to the ability of certain populations to vote. Mrs. Strauss argues that all who are eligible to vote should be able to do so without barriers. She asserts further that imposing a photo ID requirement sounds simple enough, but if it requires that a person obtain documents that are difficult or expensive (or in some cases, impossible) to obtain in order to get the photo ID, that serves to disenfranchise certain populations.

She mentioned that the disenfranchisement usually includes seniors who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate or simply can’t easily travel to have a picture taken. It includes low income persons (often persons of color) and students who have trouble taking the time to track down and pay for getting documents that are needed. Mrs. Strauss also suggests that it would also be tough for people with disabilities. The Council believes the state of Pennsylvania it should be making it easier for persons to vote—not harder. And it believes, based on hard evidence by good government groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, that voter fraud is simply not a problem.

Mrs. Strauss was asked whether she agreed with House Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s statement that the House Bill will guarantee the integrity of our state’s election process. Mrs. Strauss responded in the negative. She stated that the Council believes there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. She also mentioned that cases of voter fraud found in the state of Pennsylvania have resulted in a less than a one percent showing, have not been systematic, and are usually a result of confusion or innocent mistake.  Subsequently, the Council believes the legislation makes no sense in light of the financial cost of implementation, along with the belief that voter ID legislation will serve to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.

Lastly Mrs. Strauss asserts that the cost to implement the House Bill is very high. The Council believes that those who face significant hurdles in obtaining an ID may simply not bother to register and vote. “We also know that in neighborhoods like where I live, those who are just holding on to jobs cannot wait for long periods to vote—and forcing everyone to show an ID will mean that many will simply leave and not bother to stay and vote because they can’t afford the time away from work or fear reprimand or loss of job”. The state of Pennsylvania has “far too many other areas that need and deserve better state funding—including education and efforts to ensure that Pennsylvanians have what they need to survive and thrive”.  

Latisha Woodford is a second-year student at William and Mary Law.

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