Pennsylvania Senate Votes to Create ‘Barrier to Casting a Ballot’

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Today, the Pennsylvania Senate approved SB735, a potential state constitutional amendment about voter identification. If approved by the House, SB735 would become the ‘first passage’ of the amendment proposal — with a cost of between $1 million and $1.5 million before the Legislature’s ‘second’ consideration of it. Proposed constitutional amendments must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions before being considered by voters.

Statement of Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali

Common Cause Pennsylvania is strongly opposed to SB735.

Legislators who seek to ‘legislate by constitutional amendment’ devalue our state’s Constitution. If our elected officials want to create barriers to voting, they can attempt to use the ordinary legislative process. In fact, that’s already underway. There is nothing in this proposed constitutional amendment that is not already in House Bill 1300, which the House passed last night and passed through the Senate’s State Government Committee just this afternoon.

The right to vote should be held sacred. It is unacceptable that some legislators would try to use the constitutional amendment process to undermine Pennsylvanians’ access to the ballot box. The Pennsylvania State Constitution is not a ‘workaround’ for when you don’t get your way. It is the foundational document by which our Commonwealth operates and should be treated as such.

Voter identification sounds good in theory – but in practice, it becomes a barrier to casting a ballot. An analysis by the nonpartisan federal Government Accounting Office found that voter identification laws caused a drop in voter turnout of about 2% in the two states studied. The study found that three types of voters were particularly affected by turnout declines related to voter identification laws: voters aged 19-23; Black voters; and new voters, registered less than one year.

Our government ‘by the people’ is stronger when more people participate in it. SB735 would limit that participation, particularly among Black, young and new voters. Disenfranchisement should never be enshrined in our constitution. Common Cause Pennsylvania strongly opposes this measure, and urges the House to take a different path.