Pennsylvania Gov Vetoes GOP-Backed Voter ID Bill

Four in five Pennsylvania voters support ID requirements

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf / Getty Images
June 30, 2021

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf (D.) vetoed an election reform bill on Wednesday, citing its inclusion of voter identification requirements.

The bill would have mandated voter identification in all elections—a measure supported by 80 percent of Americans in numerous polls. The bill would have also required signature matching for mail-in ballots, in addition to moving up the deadline for voter registration and mail-in voting applications. Wolf said the bill was a form of "voter suppression."

"This bill is ultimately not about improving access to voting or election security but about restricting the freedom to vote," Wolf wrote in a memo announcing his veto. 

A June poll from Franklin and Marshall College found that 59 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters believe state election laws needed to be revised. Support for signature matching for mail-in ballots stood at 81 percent and support for voter identification requirements polled at 74 percent.  

Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, described Wolf's veto as a partisan attack. 

"These provisions are common-sense, nonpartisan steps to secure Pennsylvania's elections and restore confidence in voting systems," Anderson told the Washington Free Beacon. "Governor Wolf's veto of House Bill 1300 is a veto of election integrity and a veto of voters' legitimate concerns."

Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the Pennsylvania legislature but do not hold a veto-proof majority. The bill passed each chamber in a near party-line vote. 

Congressional Democrats are attempting to pass election reform bills and some are embracing voter ID requirements to win bipartisan support. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) proposed an election reform bill that is receiving support from Democrats, even though it requires voter identification—a measure pushed by numerous Republican-led state legislatures. 

Stacey Abrams, the failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has emerged as a leading critic of Republican-backed election reform efforts, appeared to have flipped her position on voter identification when coming out in support of Manchin's bill. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.), who, along with Abrams, has been a sharp critic of Georgia's election reform law, said he has no issue with voter ID requirements.

"I have never been opposed to voter ID," Warnock said. "And in fact, I don't know anybody who is—who believes people shouldn't have to prove that they are who they say they are. But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select, certain group." 

The progressive American Civil Liberties Union, which came out in opposition to the Pennsylvania bill, opposes voter identification requirements, citing how people who struggle to obtain identification tend to be lower-class, vulnerable citizens.

The Voting Rights Lab, a progressive election-focused advocacy group, has said federal voter identification requirements should include provisions that allow for multiple types of identification and options to verify voters who do not have identification. 

Gov. Brian Kemp (R., Ga.) signed a similar Republican-backed election reform bill into law in March, which was met with opposition from Democratic leaders nationwide and led to boycotts of Georgia-based companies. Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado in response to the law.