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Pennsylvania senate approves voter ID bill

The Pennsylvania Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved a bill [HB 934 materials] that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. Supporters of the proposed legislation say that it will combat voter fraud, but opponents fear that it will disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters who may find it difficult to obtain a photo ID. The bill was approved by a vote of 26-23 and will now be sent to the House of Representatives [official website], which already approved a tougher version of the bill last year and is expected to pass this version. If approved by the House, the bill would go to Governor Tom Corbett [official website], who has already expressed his support of the measure, and would take effect by the November elections. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania [advocacy website] and Democratic senators have already pledged to challenge the measure in court.

If this legislation is approved, Pennsylvania would become the sixteenth state to require photo ID at the polls. There are now 31 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial. Earlier this week a Wisconsin judge temporarily blocked [JURIST report] that state's voter ID law. Last month the Virginia Senate approved a voter ID law [JURIST report]. Also in February South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed suit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over its ruling that barred South Carolina [JURIST reports] from enforcing its voter ID law. In November Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure [JURIST report] to implement a voter ID law. In June Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] a law requiring persons to present photo identification at voting booth. Last March the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a law requiring voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October 2010.

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