HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett said Monday he will sign a bill now on a legislative fast track that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls.
The "voter ID" bill could reach Corbett's desk as early as Tuesday, when the House is to take a final vote on the controversial measure. The Republican-controlled chamber began debating the bill Monday afternoon but delayed the vote a day, citing rules regarding the waiting period for voting on legislation sent over from the Senate.
The Senate approved the bill last week after a several hours of debate, during which Democrats argued that it was nothing more than a partisan attempt to suppress their side's votes in a presidential election year.
Asked about that contention yesterday, Corbett responded: "I completely disagree. This is no barrier to voting. You have to have a photo ID to go anywhere."
The bill, the Republican governor noted, would allow voters who show up at polls without photo ID to cast a provisional ballot. They would then have six days to present officials with forms of identification from an approved list.
Currently, voters need only present identification the first time they vote.
If enacted, the bill will take effect before the Nov. 6 presidential election. Pennsylvania would become the 16th state requiring its residents to produce a photo when they vote. Opponents, including the ACLU and Democrats in the legislature, say they will challenge the measure in court if it becomes law.
Democrats here and nationally have argued that the requirement is hardest on the elderly, the poor, and the disabled, groups that make up the lion's share of voters less likely to have photo IDs. Those groups also tend to vote Democratic.
The Pennsylvania measure is also opposed by labor unions, the AARP, the NAACP, and a county commissioners association.
Those groups contend Republicans have not shown any evidence of voter fraud, and have created a fictitious problem to mask their true intent: to allegedly skew elections in the GOP's favor.
House Democrats on Monday tried to relax some of the requirements in the bill, but were slapped back at every turn by their Republican counterparts in the majority.
"This is a truly irresponsible piece of legislation," Rep. Mike O'Brien (D., Phila.) said Monday on the House floor. "It solves nothing, and it simply makes certain people feel good because they can say they've been able to drive a boogeyman out from underneath the bed."
Republicans countered that the bill's only intent was to ensure honesty in elections.
"After this law passes, I will be 100 percent sure that we have passed a commonsense measure that will instill more integrity in the electoral process," Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), the bill's author, said in an interview.
Asked if he would regret it if the measure prevented some voters from voting, Metcalfe said: "We have the responsibility to register, we have the responsibility to show up on time to cast a vote, we have the responsibility to learn who the candidates are. . . . This is going to be an additional responsibility, one that is not burdensome in any way."