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Pa. voter ID bill clears committee, with changes

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011
 

HARRISBURG — Republicans continued Monday to press legislation to require Pennsylvanians to show photo identification before they vote, despite resistance from Democrats who say it is intended to suppress turnout of poor and black voters, and Republicans acknowledging they lack proof of voter fraud.

The Senate State Government Committee voted 6-5 to lengthen the list of acceptable photo IDs beyond those included in a more restrictive bill passed by the state House of Representatives in June.

That bill would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID. With the amendment, it now would allow some expired government IDs, as well as IDs issued by accredited Pennsylvania colleges and universities and nursing and personal care homes, but it still would substantially toughen state law in Pennsylvania and add it to a short list of states that require photo ID.

Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney said he has seen no proof that people are casting illegal ballots, but he also said he's seen no proof that tightening the requirements would deny anyone the right to vote. He called the requirement a "security check."

"It was put upon us and asked for by the governor and by the House, who passed the bill, and they asked me to take it up," McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said after the committee vote. "I made the changes based upon what I felt I would accept to come out of the committee."

Mississippi voters in November approved a constitutional amendment to require that voters present government-issued identification at the polls, and six states where Republicans control governor's offices and legislatures — Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — passed photo ID laws this year. That brings the number of states that require a photo ID to 15, according to the NCSL's tally.

Another 16 states require identification that does not need a photo. Already this year, Democratic governors in five states — Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina — have vetoed stronger voter ID bills sent to them by Republican-controlled legislatures.

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