Our democratic system depends on trust – but Americans have become increasingly disillusioned by the political process. According to a poll conducted for CNN, an alarming 58% of voters have little-to-no confidence that elections in the U.S. reflect the will of the people. Overall public trust in government has also fallen to 20% – or near historic lows.
People are losing faith in our government and elections, but it’s not too late to turn this around.
Enacting stronger election protections, such as voter identification laws, can restore trust in our democratic process. Pennsylvania lawmakers can give their constituents the chance to adopt voter identification by passing Senate Bill 1.
SB 1 would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to include voter ID. The Pennsylvania Senate passed SB 1 this January, thanks to the unwavering efforts of Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49). The House should follow their lead and quickly pass the bill – giving Pennsylvanians the opportunity to approve the Voter ID amendment in this spring’s primary election.
The Voter ID amendment is simple and straightforward. It requires voters to present a valid ID before getting a ballot in person or providing proof of ID if voting by mail. And it offers free government-issued IDs to any voter who doesn’t have one.
Currently, Pennsylvanians must show a driver’s license, PennDOT ID card, or the last four digits of their Social Security number to register to vote. When voting for the first time (or voting for the first time in a new precinct) voters must provide a valid ID.
However, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, “[t]here is no explicit federal or state requirement that requires that identification to be validated.” So, when people claim not to have a driver’s license or Social Security number, the Department of State instructs counties to process and place them on the voter rolls anyway.
Simply put: You need a valid ID to vote – until you don’t.
Right now, we are asking our voters to trust a system that doesn’t have basic safeguards in place. No wonder we are losing confidence in our elections.
Meanwhile, in a national poll, 64% of Black voters, 77% of Hispanic voters, and 76% of low-income voters rejected the claim that providing a form of ID at the ballot-box is a “burden.” And a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that voter ID laws do not impact turnout, nor do they impact election outcomes.
It makes sense that it would have broad support – after all, you need a form of ID to open a bank account, get on a plane, or check into a hotel. And for the minority of Pennsylvanians who need an ID, the proposed constitutional amendment provides one for free.
The 2018 midterms are further proof voter ID laws do not suppress turnout. With around two-thirds of states enforcing a voter ID law, turnout surged. Pew Research Center analysts saw “historic jumps” among every racial group. Turnout among Black voters grew nearly 27% while Hispanic and Asian voter turnout rose an incredible 50%.
More recently, Georgia passed a voter ID law in 2021. In the 2022 midterms, the state experienced record-breaking turnout.
Pennsylvanians support voter ID too – 86% want to modernize our election rules to require a voter ID to vote. And Gov. Josh Shapiro, during his campaign, signaled he is open to requiring voter IDs to vote in person.
Changing the Pennsylvania Constitution is a lengthy and transparent process reserved for the most essential issues – and restoring the integrity of our elections is essential. It’s time for our state House to act.
But Democrat leadership in the House and Speaker of the House Rep. Mark Rozzi are trying to block a House vote on the Voter ID amendment. By denying even a vote on SB 1, these lawmakers are obfuscating the democratic process.
Lawmakers owe it to their constituents to put the voter ID amendment on the ballot. Only by trusting our voters can Pennsylvania restore the integrity of its elections.
Elizabeth Stelle is the Director of Policy Analysis of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank. Twitter: @ElizabethBryan