Pennsylvanians Must Reject Restrictive Voter ID Laws

Proponents of this voter suppression often employ dishonest and disingenuous racist dog whistles to make their case. Journalists shouldn’t uncritically print them.

For years, the debate over the implementation of an additional barrier to the ballot box, otherwise known as voter ID laws, is again in the spotlight. We’ve seen this before when a previous voter ID law in Pennsylvania was struck down by the PA Commonwealth Court in 2012 as unconstitutional. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania Republicans are once again making it a top priority, and pushing “election integrity” bills with unnecessary provisions that would suppress votes in the Commonwealth.

Time and time again, there has been a staggering lack of evidence to back up claims of widespread voter fraud, many of which are pushed forward by prominent Republican elected officials in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Proponents say restrictive voter ID laws should be put in place because they are broadly popular and poll well, and while that might be true, they have yet to provide sufficient evidence that voter fraud is occurring or that additional barriers to the ballot box would even be effective in preventing any future fraud in the first place. 

In a recent article, “Pa. lawmakers are pushing voter ID again. What happened in other states may surprise you” (2/15/23), Matt Braynard, an ex-Trump campaign staffer and executive director of Look Ahead America, a Washington, D.C. based organization attempting to interfere in elections in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas, is quoted, “If you don’t have ID, the least of concerns in your life is getting to vote once every few years.”

Statements like Braynard’s are dishonest, tone-deaf, and a disingenuous racist dog whistle for those who know. Those closest to the pain must be closest to the ballot box – and that’s twice a year, every year in the Commonwealth, as communities of color will be disproportionately impacted by additional barriers to voting. Consistent voting is how historically and functionally disenfranchised communities in Pennsylvania will begin to have their voices heard, and their concerns and needs met in a more representative democracy.

To instill faith in our elections, Pennsylvania lawmakers should pass legislation for same-day voter registration like in North Carolina, and early voting like Georgians are lucky to have. Making the ballot more accessible, and the act of voting quicker and simpler should be the goal, not restrictive voter ID laws advocated for by those who fall for Trump’s Big Lies. 

Pennsylvania already has voter ID laws on the books, and they’re effective. The truth is, any additional Voter ID laws are solutions in search of a problem. The Pennsylvania electorate made their voices heard last November. They want an increase to the $7.25/hour minimum wage, fair education funding for our public schools, affordable housing and the protection and expansion of our voting rights. All of our elected officials should work on those issues first and foremost.

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Kadida Kenner

Kadida Kenner

Kadida Kenner is the CEO of the New Pennsylvania Project, a statewide voting rights organization with a primary focus on voter registration, civic engagement and mobilization, and co-chair of Why Courts Matter — Pennsylvania, a campaign educating Pennsylvanians about the importance of the independence of both the federal and state courts. She writes from Chester County.

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