On Wednesday, Penn Democrats held a vote in the basement of Houston Hall: cookies or brownies? But if you didn’t have a Pennsylvania state license or passport, you were turned away from the poll.
“This is what will happen if Pennsylvania House Bill 934 is passed in the Senate and becomes law,” College senior and Penn Dems President Isabel Friedman said.
If passed, HB934 would require voters in the state of Pennsylvania to present a Pennsylvania identification card or passport in order to vote. Rep. Daryl Metcalf (R-Pa.) sponsored the bill to decrease identity theft at the polls, known as voter fraud.
As it stands, “there’s no way of knowing if fraud is occurring,” College Republicans President and Daily Pennsylvanian columnist Charles Gray said. This compromises and hurts the confidence in our election process, the Wharton and College senior added, citing a 2008 Congressional Cooperative Elections Study, which showed that 62 percent of Americans thought that voter fraud was “very common” or “somewhat common.”
But “voter fraud is incredibly unlikely and happens rarely,” Friedman said.
Penn Dems Communications Director and College sophomore Andrew Brown added, “You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being impersonated at the polls,” citing a 2007 Brennan Center for Justice study.
However, Gray responded that “there’s absolutely no way of knowing whether voter fraud is happening or not in Pennsylvania. I can’t fathom how a study like that would even be conducted because unless you’re voting for the first time, you don’t have to show up with an ID.”
Penn Dems Deputy Legislative Events Chair and College freshman Nathalie Figueroa organized Wednesday’s poll “to spread awareness about [HB934] and to get more signatures for our petition.”
The petition looks to get support from students at Penn who, according to Friedman, “will be disenfranchised if HB934 is passed.” According to a Penn Dems flier, over 81% of non-international Penn students don’t have a Pennsylvania ID.
Figueroa explained, “Our primary goal is to petition Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi [(R-Pa.)] and prevent [HB934] from reaching the Senate floor.”
Gray responded that “it’s too bad about how this conversation has turned political instead of talking about the real issue here — which is making an atmosphere for free and fair elections in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania”
Both Democrats and Republicans have signed the petition, which has garnered about 300 signatures so far, according to Friedman.
College juniors Anita Gade and Dina Shteyngardt signed the petition because it presents “a valid argument,” Gade said.
“I’ve been waiting for a presidential election to vote,” Shteyngardt said, “and I would definitely vote in Pennsylvania instead of New York, my home state, because Pennsylvania’s a swing state.”
“I will get my friends to sign [the petition], but I won’t be super active or protest or anything,” she added.
Which is fine, Friedman said, “that’s our job. [HB934] isn’t even scheduled for the Senate floor yet. This is just the beginning.”
President of the non-partisan group Penn Leads The Vote and College senior Kelly Higgins wrote in an email that regardless of the bill’s outcome, “PLTV remains committed to our mission of increasing voter turnout on campus and that will not be changed. If … we have to make adjustments in order to accomplish our mission we will do that.”
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