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Allegheny County Elections Board Votes To Challenge Voter ID Law

The vote to sue was strictly along party lines.

By a 2-1 vote, Allegheny County’s election board has decided to file a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law. 

The two Democrats, board chairman John DeFazio and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, voted to sue, while Republican Heather Heidelbaugh voted against the measure. 

The results of the vote were hardly surprising. 

The law, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, requires voters to show photo identification before they vote at the polls. After a dry run in the April primary, it is scheduled to take effect for the Nov. 6 general election. 

The new Voter ID Act requires each elector who appears to vote to first present proof of identification and requires that local election officials verify the proof of identification. 

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am absolutely opposed to the Voter ID law, but this meeting is about something different entirely,” said DeFazio.  “Beyond the unfunded mandates being put on the county for implementation of this law, there are other requirements that are being put on the county that are inappropriate and unlawful.” 

In a statement released prior to today’s vote, Allegheny County Council’s Republican Caucus issued a highly critical statement of the Democrats' challenge. 

“It’s a dangerous precedent when special interests and party politics come into play regarding elections,” said Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park. “We have all taken an oath to obey the laws and Constitution and I would ask all elected officials to get serious about working on real issues that affect our collective taxpayers.” 

“There is nothing outlandish or outrageous concerning having an ID. It’s hard to believe that having something so fundamental and simply following law (that of having an ID to vote) would cause Allegheny County Democratic officials so much angst,” said Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless. “Voter identification to prevent fraud is a simple process. Allegheny County should be fully prepared to implement this new law.” 

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner argued on Friday that the law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and federal laws guaranteeing free and equal access to the polls while placing an unfunded mandate on county taxpayers.

“No elected official in our democracy should prevent citizens from voting,” Wagner said in a statement on the Allegheny County website. “We will not stand for this in Allegheny County, and we will not stand for this in Pennsylvania—our nation’s birthplace. 

Heidelbaugh said the county’s lawsuit would ultimately amount to a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. 

“The ACLU has already filed such a lawsuit which will be tried shortly in Harrisburg,” she said. “The ACLU has some fine lawyers and they don't need Allegheny County to file another lawsuit over the same issue. Perhaps the individuals promoting this lawsuit could just personally donate to the ACLU to cover the cost of their lawsuit and we can keep precious Allegheny County dollars at home."

Do you agree with the decision to challenge the new voter identification law? Tell us in comments below.

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Stephen June 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM
As the son of an immigrant who entered this country the correct way I am absolutely blown away by this debate. You need to show ID for almost everything, why would we not require it for one of the most important things we do as citizens? There is no reason why someone who legitimately wants to vote cannot get an ID. The only reason to not want to show ID, is to cheat the system. This is a red herring argument. My immigrant mother finds it appalling that it wasn't already a requirement to show ID. She worked very hard to become a citizen over several decades and is sickened by how we have cheapened the honor that it is to become a citizen of this great nation.
James Dale Barrington June 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Yes, it should be challenged. Fraud is a non-issue for the most part. It's all about being able to vote.
crosbycat June 20, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I had to bring my 16 year old kid's birth certificate and Social Security card just to get a driver's license permit. Fraud is the ONLY issue and anyone challenging this law must believe that fraud is the only way for their candidates to win, rather than on a fair vote.
Stephen June 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
James, is some level of fraud acceptable? Your comment about "fraud is a non-issue for the MOST part" concerns me. When elections can be determined by just a few votes, that would seem like a big risk to take.
Carol June 20, 2012 at 03:42 PM
we know how much fraud is involved when it comes to voting. No ones rights are being violated just because you have to show ID. If you have nothing to hide you wouldn't have a problem with it, they should have done this a long time ago, we're all aware of what goes on when it comes time to vote.
Bev June 20, 2012 at 03:47 PM
I don't see the controversy except for the political mileage some might get from this issue. How restrictive is it to ask for ID? And as a county poll worker, I don't see any added cost in requiring ID. Workers already verify the signature of voters so the only additional effort would be to look at the ID.
Jacob Pavlecic June 20, 2012 at 05:03 PM
It's simple how this law is restrictive. In pine-richland, we are for the most part well off. Most of us have cars and therefor, a driver's license. Also, I know plenty of people around here who like to travel out side the country and need a passport. But, what about if you have a low income job in the city? You don't need a car and you can't afford to go on vacation outside the U.S.? Why would you have ANY ID? Sure, every citizen has a right to get an ID, but how long does it take to get a Passport? Months. The election is right around the corner. Plus, James is right. There has been NO evidence of mass fraud happening. Why make this law? Lastly, when James says "for the most-part" I'm assuming he means there will always be fraud Steven. You can never eliminate entirely.
Pat June 20, 2012 at 06:24 PM
In other countries, people risk their lives to vote. Wow!, first world problem. Having to show ID to vote. Such a hardship. Most cities have non driver licenses for identification purposes.
Nelson D. Noel June 20, 2012 at 10:54 PM
F&B, it's really very simple. If you have a job or a bank account you have to have ID to get your check cashed. There is absolutely no reason not to have ID. It only takes a day to get a State issued ID at the State building downtown - it should only take an hour tops but since you're dealing with government everything takes 5 to 8 times longer than it should. As for evidence of mass fraud, ever hear of a little organization formerly known as ACORN? There have been several convictions in several jurisdictions throughout the nation for voter fraud.
Jacob Pavlecic June 21, 2012 at 02:53 PM
So Nelson, you are okay with the government forcing you to get an ID to exercise your right to vote? And yes I've heard of acorn. If I remember correctly, Pennsylvania wasn't a major place where it happened. As I said, there will always be voter fraud. There has been NO evidence of mass fraud in PA that would have changed an election.
D. Gerst June 21, 2012 at 09:01 PM
F&B, you should change your name to unfair and unbalanced. what does living in the city or being "low income" have to do with carrying identification? you can get a walkers id for a couple bucs if not free of charge. in this day and age fraud IS everywhere, Pennsylvania included. Absolutely you should need ID when entering a voting booth, and in my opinion the only people against this are the same people trying to beat the system for thier own political gain.
Laura Pavlecic June 27, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Why did the Patch remove the article that discussed Rep. Turzai's comment that Republicans will be at an advantage due to the voter ID law that Jill Taylor Spero submitted yesterday? Why does the proposed law state that an ID must have an expiration date? Thus, many cannot use college ID's, which require social security information and a picture to obtain. My voter ID card does not have an expiration date. If you do not have a PA driver's license then you must obtain an ID from a licensed care facility, do you know what that is and where to go? I don't. How much does it cost? What documents are needed? Most of those assisting the polls for the primary were unable to direct folks to appropriate settings to obtain the proper ID as they were not properly educated by the state. Who is available to assist those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc to obtain this ID? Our elderly still have a right to vote even if they no longer drive. BTW, the information above is incorrect, you cannot use a free walker's ID, that might actually make too much sense.

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