HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Reaction from candidates for state attorney general indicated Friday that they are split along party lines over the merits of a fast-moving bill that would require all Pennsylvania voters to show photo identification before their votes are counted.
Democratic candidates Patrick Murphy, Kathleen Kane and Don Bailey said they oppose the legislation, echoing their party-mates in the Legislature in saying it would infringe upon the rights of those least likely to have proper identification, including poor, elderly and minority voters.
“A blatant attempt by those in power to maintain their power,” said Murphy, a former congressman from Bucks County, referring to the bill’s Republican sponsors.
Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.”
All three Democratic hopefuls favor challenging the constitutionality of the proposal in court if _ as expected _ it becomes law, and Bailey went a step further.
“I would not enforce it” if elected, the Harrisburg civil-rights lawyer declared. “It’s unlawful. It’s in violation of the Constitution of the United States.”
Murphy and Kane said they would support efforts in the courts by others to block enforcement or overturn the law, but they said they would set aside their personal misgivings and enforce it as long as it is on the books.
“It will be the attorney general’s job to uphold the law,” Kane said.
Murphy said, “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. If you break the law, I’m going to put you in jail.”
The bill was approved Wednesday in the Republican-controlled Senate after a long and contentious debate. It is expected to win approval within days from the House of Representatives, which approved a stricter measure last year, and GOP Gov. Tom Corbett has said he supports it.
David Freed, the Cumberland County district attorney and sole candidate for the Republican nomination for attorney general, said he would be “more than comfortable” enforcing the law.
“Anything that prevents fraud is a positive step,” he said.
Freed acknowledged that he has not encountered any cases of someone trying to impersonate a voter in his more than six years in office, but pointed out that Pennsylvanians routinely have to show identification to cash checks and other transactions.
“I don’t think (the photo ID requirement for voters) is too much to ask,” he said.
GOP legislatures across the country are pressing voter ID bills this year. Pennsylvania would be the third-largest state to adopt such a law, after Texas and Florida. Fifteen other states have laws requiring or requesting photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bill allows numerous forms of acceptable photo identification, including driver’s licenses, many government employee IDs as well as those held by college students and people living in elder-care institutions as long as they show a name, photo and expiration date that makes them current.
People who lack proper ID would be allowed to cast provisional ballots that would not be counted unless the voters take acceptable documentation to county election offices within six days.
Opponents of the legislation in Pennsylvania include a county governments association, organized labor, civil-rights advocates, AARP and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The American Civil Liberties Union said it was preparing a legal challenge.