With a constitutional challenge to the law raging in Harrisburg, state Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157) suggested that HB 934—the controversial law that blocks citizens without state-issued ID from voting—won’t interfere with the ability of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots this November and, contrary to conventional wisdom, might actually boost turnout in the state.
“Georgia has a very similar law. They’ve had it for six years. And they had it in 2008 and in those communities which often are said to have been impacted by voter ID laws, the turnout was actually far greater than it should have been demographically," Kampf said at the conclusion of Monday's town hall meeting at .
"There isn’t a demonstrated situation where these sorts of laws have disenfranchised people," he added. "And, honestly, I’m beginning to feel like this law may actually enfranchise people. [Though] I can’t guarantee that.”
Kampf’s are minority views. The Pennsylvania Department of State says that nearly 759,000 registered voters in Pa. don’t possess a state-issued ID—though they admit that 167,000 of these voters haven’t actually cast a ballot in the past five years—while a University of Washington political science professor, according to CBS News, wrote a paper in July estimating that as many as 757,000 Pennsylvanians who voted in 2008 don’t have the necessary ID to do so this time around.
Kampf emphasized that the state has gone to lengths to ensure the law won't depress turnout. In addition to a robust campaign informing residents about the law, he said ID cards are free for those who can’t afford them and, in response to concerns raised about seniors who have lost their social security card or birth certificate being turned down by PennDOT, said those requirements have been waived effective in August. He added that those who show up at the polls on election day without an ID can cast a provisional ballot, then fax in the necessary forms.
"I want to assist anybody who needs help [getting ID] anywhere in this state," Kampf said.
Opponents of the law have countered that this won’t be enough, and the inconvenience of obtaining an ID will keep many home on election day. They argue that a majority of those without IDs are Democratic voters and that the law is simply a clever effort on the part of state Republicans to suppress voter turnout for political gain. Furthermore, they say, voter fraud in Pennsylvania is a non-problem – an argument that gained additional credibility when the state conceded it has no evidence that such a crime has ever been committed in PA.
While acknowledging that “there is a lot of politics surrounding this voter ID law, probably on both sides,” Kampf suggested that these objections miss the point. He argued that voting is sacrosanct and regardless of the frequency of fraud (he admitted the country doesn’t have a “wide history” of the crime) it makes sense to pass laws that protect against it.
“It never made sense to me when I walked into a polling place…and all I had to do was say my name and sign a signature that was right there in front of me and I could vote. That didn’t seem to me to be a very strong protection,” the representative said.
"I say, gosh, the legislature tried to do something that, absent a crisis, prevented us from getting into a crisis or tried to ensure the credibility of the vote. That can’t be all bad.”