General Assembly

PA House GOP lawmakers plan to pursue expanded voter ID

Republicans say they will use a legislative maneuver to force a floor vote on the measure.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler speaks at a press conference in the state Capitol.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler speaks at a press conference in the state Capitol. Screen capture / Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus

Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday revealed plans to try to force action on a voter ID measure by using a seldom-used parliamentary maneuver that could get the proposal on the ballot for voters to consider in November. 

House Republicans said at a press conference Monday that they plan to introduce a discharge resolution – a parliamentary tool that allows lawmakers to pull a bill out of committee and bypass a committee vote, in an attempt to secure a vote on House Bill 891. The measure would add a universal voter ID requirement to the state constitution – if voters ultimately approve it in a ballot referendum.

Under the current House operating rules, discharge resolutions must receive signatures from 50 members – 25 signatures from the minority party and 25 signatures from the majority party – for the resolution to move forward. A discharge resolution must then receive a majority vote from members of the House for a bill to be considered.

Enhanced voter ID laws have long been a goal for Republicans in the General Assembly. Speaking in the state Capitol on Monday, House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler said if voters are ever going to consider a voter ID amendment, it should be during a high-turnout election like this year.

“The 2024 general election is going to be one of the highest-turnout elections in Pennsylvania history,” Cutler said. “Putting a voter identification constitutional amendment on the ballot for this November guarantees that the most voices have a say in this very important issue more than likely any other time in the next few years.” 

Cutler said that 22 Democrats in the chamber have already voted in support of expanded voter ID in the past, citing a failed 2023 vote on an omnibus bill that included expanded voter ID language, but failed to gain support in the Democrat-controlled House. Cutler suggested, based on that prior vote, that Republicans theoretically need the support of three more Democrats to move ahead with the resolution.

“We need three more – just three more – reasonable Democrats to come forward to join us in this overwhelmingly bipartisan push to get this important constitutional amendment out of committee and onto the floor for a vote,” Cutler said.

State Rep. Brad Roae, a Republican who serves as the minority chair of the House State Government Committee, said he will introduce the discharge resolution this week. “Elections are so important – we should be making sure that people that vote are who they say they are.”

Beth Rementer, a spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus, called the GOP discharge resolution a political stunt. 

“The constitution grants rights. It doesn’t and shouldn’t take away rights. Therefore, any attempt to disenfranchise voters through a constitutional amendment is a non-starter for House Democrats,” Rementer said. 

“In addition, House Republicans had the opportunity to pass a voter ID provision through legislation but instead voted against it last October,” Rementer added, citing the 2023 vote. “This is nothing more than a political stunt.”

Last week, Democratic House Speaker Joanna McClinton outlined forthcoming legislation that would create two weeks of in-person voting in Pennsylvania and allow same-day voter registration in the state. That measure seeks to amend the state’s Election Code, not the state constitution.

To amend the state constitution, lawmakers must pass a proposed amendment in back-to-back legislative sessions, which the voters must then approve or reject through a ballot referendum. 

Lawmakers successfully passed a proposed voter ID amendment in July 2022, when both the House and Senate approved Senate Bill 106. At the time, both chambers of the General Assembly were controlled by Republicans. 

This legislative session, however, Democrats control the state House, making the future of the voter ID amendment less certain.