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Photo ID bill is unnecessary

Intelligencer, April 24, 2009

To the Editor:

In your recent editorial, "Picture ID for voters," you stated that "along with the accuracy and reliability of voting machines, voter fraud is a concern among those who take the franchise seriously." You continued, "you can hardly argue" with state Sens. Chuck McIlhinney and Rob Wonderling's co-sponsored legislation that "would require voters to show photo ID in order to vote."

However, many citizens did take issue with further obstacles being placed in the pathway of Pennsylvania's would-be voters and contacted Sen. McIlhinney. As a result, the senator withdrew Senate Bill 514 for "further review and discussion."

History shows that the incidence of voters attempting to vote twice is rare and hard to substantiate. Between October 2002 and September 2005, only 38 cases were prosecuted nationally, and only 13 ended in convictions. Yet, the myth of widespread voter fraud lives on, no matter how many times it is debunked.

Demanding photo identification has become a familiar tactic to suppress, discourage and disenfranchise many elderly, minority, low-income and disabled citizens who are the least likely to possess photo ID, and also least able to negotiate all the steps necessary to obtain it. For decades, our signatures at the polls have been as legally binding as those on our mortgages and sufficient assurance that we are who we have said we are. The introduction of this photo ID bill is truly a solution in search of a problem.

Meanwhile, as you acknowledge, the accuracy and reliability of voting machines are of serious concern, given their flawed potential for changing election outcomes. Because the Danaher direct-recording electronic machines lack any external record of voters' intended votes, there is no way to know if their votes have been accurately counted. If voters mark their votes on a paper ballot, which is read by an optical scanner, with the paper ballot saved, there would be an accurate, verifiable record.

Citizens need to contact their legislators and urge them to oppose this unneeded photo ID bill and work instead on getting voter-marked paper ballot systems into those Pennsylvania counties where citizens lack the guarantee that their leaders were truly chosen by the voters.

David Reynolds