Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county controller Chelsa Wagner are among the officials planning a challenge , which was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March.
Sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, the law 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.
Friday's meeting at the Allegheny County Courthouse included a vote to authorize a lawsuit against the commonwealth based on the unconstitutionality of the Voter ID Act.
“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,” Allegheny County Board of Elections Chair John DeFazio said. “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.”
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.
The proof of identification must show the name of the person that “substantially conforms” to the name on the elections register and include a photograph (exception for religious reasons) and an expiration date, and it must not be expired.
If the voter does not have ID, or if the ID is challenged, the voter may cast a provisional ballot, but must provide the same proof of identification within six days of the election, as well as provide an affidavit that they were the same person who tried to vote by machine.
“I am ashamed that Pennsylvania is one of 15 states that has taken steps to disenfranchise our voters, and I have no doubt that the reasons for it are entirely political, because it is not based on evidence of any fraud that is occurring,” Fitzgerald said in a press release issued Friday.
“That being said, the county has the responsibility to implement the provisions of the Voter ID Law, and when we began to review those requirements, it became clear that there is misinformation and changing information, and the county is, essentially, being asked to violate other laws.”
Wagner argues 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.
Every elected official must do everything in their power to increase voter participation, not limit it, regardless of party or demographics.”
Wagner joined Fitzgerald at a 2 p.m. press conference Friday to detail efforts to block the law.
The county controller, a Democrat, has endorsed efforts in the courts to keep the law from taking effect before the election and said her office will file an amicus brief in the challenge to the law now pending in Commonwealth Court.
“The cost of implementing Voter ID statewide has been estimated at $11 million, with no aid from the state, so the governor is creating another unfunded mandate for all 67 counties,” Wagner said. “As Pennsylvania’s second-largest county, with large populations of urban, elderly and student voters who would be most harmed, Allegheny County would shoulder a huge financial burden implementing Voter ID.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold & Porter last month asked appeals court judges to overturn the law, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Metcalfe has said the law, which was championed by the Republican party, would prevent impersonation at the polls, fictitious registrations, double-voting and voting by illegal aliens.