Pennsylvania has become the latest state to pass a voter ID law in the Republican-led nationwide effort to deny the vote to millions. H.B. 934, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law last Wednesday, will effectively disenfranchise 691,000 Pennsylvanians who do not currently have a driver’s license, according to a 2006 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) estimate. African Americans, seniors, people with disabilities, the working poor and students are twice as likely as others to lack ID. Voter ID bills introduced across the country would disenfranchise more than 21 million eligible voters.
In line with Republican talking points, Corbett argues the bill prevents voter fraud. However, there is little evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania or other states. A five-year investigation by former President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice netted only 86 convictions nationally for improper voting among millions of votes cast. And while there are some instances of “dead voters” and voter fraud due to mail-in ballots, neither of those issues would be resolved with restrictive photo ID requirements.
Additionally, the bill comes with no small price tag—according to a nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimate, H.B. 934 will cost taxpayers more than $11 million in the first year alone. At a time when Pennsylvanians are hurting from a 7.7 percent unemployment rate, $900 million in cuts from the state education budget and a $651 million cut from health care and other programs that help the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, the voter suppression bill seems, at best, a financially irresponsible distraction and, at worst, a blatant obstruction to democracy. The law will be in full effect by this November’s elections.
What has caused the sudden obsession over “voter fraud” that has seized Corbett and other Republican politicians all across the country?
The better question is not “what” but “who.” And for whom.
Enter: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a 501(c)(3) funded by the right-wing Koch brothers and corporations that bring these corporations together with state legislators to draft laws to benefit the businesses and their friends, often at the expense of working families. These model bills then are handed off to lawmakers to introduce in their home assemblies.
Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate, recently looked at voter suppression and ALEC with a focus on just one of these corporate messenger lawmakers: Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R).
Metcalfe, who pushed for the vote suppression bill in Pennsylvania, is a longstanding member of ALEC, which boasts a membership of more than 250 corporations and special interest groups, including Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, Philip Morris International and Koch Industries Inc. The Voter ID Act is one of more than 800 bills that the Center for Media and Democracy identified and published on its ALEC Exposed website. Take a close look at that model bill and you’ll see it looks remarkably similar to the voter ID bills in Wisconsin, Texas and South Carolina.
Working America notes that the Metcalfes across the country are “delivery systems for laws that corporations want to see.” The only thing that could stop corporations from having their way is if the Metcalfes of this country are voted out, which is exactly why corporations are so keen to pass voter suppression bills all across the country. The end of Working America’s post sums up what’s at stake with the nationwide push for voter suppression bills:
This isn’t about stopping voter fraud. This isn’t even about winning the 2012 election. This is about corporations replacing citizens as the decision makers in America. Because when a corporation has free reign to affect an election outcome while individuals can’t even cast a single vote, we’re not a democracy anymore.
The Metcalfes of this country are corporate messengers, but they are also gateways to checking corporate power. Identifying Metcalfes and calling them out for what they really are provides an opportunity to keep our elected officials accountable and to ensure they put working families first, not corporations.