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Pa. Legislature Passes Controversial Voter ID Card Mandate

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(File photo)

(File photo)

(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Less than eight months before the presidential election, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has approved a measure to establish one of the nation’s toughest photo identification laws for voters.

The 104-88 vote this afternoon in the Republican-controlled chamber came after three days of debate. The measure heads to Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican, who says he’ll sign it into law immediately.

A court challenge is expected.

dermody frank  romeo Pa. Legislature Passes Controversial Voter ID Card Mandate

(Pa. House minority leader Frank Dermody, after failing to block passage of the voter ID bill. Credit: Tony Romeo)

Democrats have criticized the measure as a veiled effort to defeat President Obama by suppressing some traditionally Democratic voters, such as minorities, the poor, and college students, while making it more difficult for the elderly and disabled (related story).

As debate on the measure that spanned three days drew to a close, Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny County, right), the minority leader, contended that even though people without a photo ID would be allowed to get one from PennDOT without charge, there would be other costs and delays, particularly for those who may need documentation like a birth certificate.

“It is not free. This a stealth poll tax. We are going back to the old days,” he said angrily.

But Republicans say the measure will combat voter fraud and protect the sanctity of elections through the use of widely available IDs (see previous story).  During House floor debate, Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery County) said that the Corbett administration has agreed to help seniors who need photos IDs get one.

“They will work with the Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to make sure that any senior who no longer has a valid driver’s license can neverthetheless vote,” she said.

County officials around the Commonwealth, meanwhile, warn the mandate will unnecessarily lengthen Election Day lines (related story).

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