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NAACP mobilizes against voter ID bill

Pittsburgh NAACP President M. Gayle Moss (left) and First Vice President and political action chair Constance Parker advocate for a halt to PA House Bill 934 during a press conference at the Freedom Unlimited office in the Hill District on Wednesday.

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Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

The NAACP's Pittsburgh branch is mobilizing to oppose a bill that would require Pennsylvanians to show identification before voting.

The organization on Wednesday likened the importance of the effort to ones that resulted in the abolishment of poll taxes. Members called on city residents to sign and help circulate petitions. They called on ministers to shout it down from their pulpits.

"The African-American community across the country fought long and hard to be able to vote," said NAACP President M. Gayle Moss. "This is a tactic to reduce the number of senior citizen voters, African-American voters, who do not have cars or drive, and young voters."

State Rep. Daryl D. Metcalfe, who sponsored the bill, said his intent is exactly the opposite. The legislation, he said, will protect those voters and ensure honest balloting. The Cranberry Republican said he was surprised at the NAACP's response.

"You have to question whether they want fair elections or want to have fraud continued to be perpetrated," he said.

The bill, which Democrats generally oppose, would require voters to show state or federally issued photo identification. It passed the state House in June and is now in the Senate State Government Committee, which voted earlier this month to expand the list of acceptable types of identification. Metcalfe said the bill now permits photo identification issued by colleges and universities in Pennsylvania and nursing and personal care homes.

Under state law, voters must show identification when voting for the first time at their poll.

Legislation is pending in more than 30 states to require voters to show ID. Seven states, including Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Mississippi, already have laws on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Metcalfe cited voter fraud arrests of ACORN workers in Pittsburgh and the submission by ACORN workers of 8,000 fraudulent voter registration forms in Philadelphia several years ago as evidence that the law is needed. ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a defunct activist group.

"We've seen efforts to perpetrate that kind of fraud," he said.

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