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Voter ID Opponents Gather Strength in Pennsylvania

People representing older voters, black voters, and voters with disabilities say a measure making its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature would put an unnecessary barrier between the individuals they represent and the polling place. Opponents of the bill say Pennsylvanians that fall into several categories who most need to have their voice heard in politics are also among those most unlikely to have state-issued photo ID's.

Butler County Republican Representative Daryl Metcalfe is the bill's sponsor. He argues that a photo ID is required for everything from getting a library card to picking up products you have ordered, so it makes sense that something as important as voting would carry the same requirements. Not everyone agrees.

"[Y]ou know what? Voting is a right. A right for every U.S. citizen. This is not just a prerogative type of an issue. This is a right. And the United State of America, including Pennsylvania, should be finding ways to encourage people to vote," said Black Political Empowerment Committee Chair Tim Stevens.

Wendy Bookler first heard about the Voter ID proposal while working with the SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia, and she figured it could make voting more difficult for her mother. The 93-year-old registered voter has no state-issued photo ID. "I was with my mom and I told her about this legislation, and that's when she said, 'Boy, you're really a nobody in this state if you don't have a driver's license,'" said Bookler.

The bill calls for the state to issue non-drivers ID's to any person without an ID who is already a registered voter. The House Appropriations Committee estimates the measure would cost the state $4.3 million.

About 82 percent of Pennsylvania adults are registered to vote, according to PennDOT.