When voting in elections in Pennsylvania in the past, all you needed to do was to show up at the polls, give a poll worker your name and address, and sign your signature on a voter registration list before getting your credentials to cast your ballot.

Not anymore.

As of last month, the Republican-led state Legislature passed a law that now requires voters to present a photo ID to prove their identity before being allowed to vote. Gov. Tom Corbett then signed the bill. In November, it will take effect, essentially making it harder for many citizens to prove their identities and vote for the candidates of their choice.

On “Court Radio” at 7 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday, Pa. State Sen. Vincent Hughes of the 7th Senatorial District will be our special guest to talk about the new law, which he says is actually a “Voter Suppression Law.” Hughes will join MyPhillyLawyer managing partner Dean Weitzman and his co-host David Rapoport on Court Radio to dissect the controversial new law.

Court Radio is broadcast live at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning on Philadelphia’s WRNB 100.3 FM, with a simulcast on Magic 95.9 FM in Baltimore. You can also listen live on the Internet at WRNB 100.3 or on Magic 95.9 via streaming audio.

Hughes, who represents sections of Philadelphia and bordering Montgomery County, said that critics of the new law, including the Pa. Senate Democratic Caucus, the NAACP, the ACLU and the AFL-CIO, are already lining up to challenge it in court. A similar law enacted recently in Wisconsin was has been put on hold by a judge while the law is reviewed.

PA State Sen. Vincent Hughes, 7th Senatorial District

“We will fight this all the way to the end,” Hughes said. “This is the right to vote, which is constitutionally-protected. This is not showing your ID to get on an airplane or to get into a building or to buy beer legally. This is far beyond other things that you have to show ID for in this country. This is a solution searching for a problem.”

Supporters of the law argued that it was needed to cut vote fraud, but that’s outrageous, he said.

“Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, this bill would actually suppress the right to vote for many eligible voters in Pennsylvania who do not have a photo ID,” Hughes said in a prepared statement. Instead, some 340,000 Pennsylvania seniors do not have a state-issued photo I.D., which will make it harder for them to vote, he said. “In addition, minorities, the disabled and young people will be disproportionately impacted.”

“Vulnerable citizens are having their medical assistance taken away, their access to food stamps blocked and now they will have their vote suppressed,” Hughes said. “It is shameful and unwarranted, especially in light of the need for solutions to much larger issues, like protecting the social safety net, job creation and growing Pennsylvania’s economy. The provisions of this bill almost amount to a poll tax, requiring mostly seniors to spend their valuable dollars to obtain a photo ID.”

In the 2008 election, there were only 4 cases of voter fraud reported in Pennsylvania, out of the 8.73 million registered voters, according to statistics cited by Hughes. Since 2004, Pennsylvania has cast 20 million votes and had 4 convictions for voter fraud. A national study conducted by President George Bush’s Justice Department found only 86 cases of fraud in the United States between 2002 and 2007 out of 300 million votes cast, according to Hughes’ office.

“There’s been no fraud that this is meant to protect,” he said. “All this will do is deny people’s participation in a constitutionally-protected right. You’ve got to shut this stuff down in the very beginning.”

The GOP is pushing this in states across the U.S. to try to cut the vote for President Obama and the Democratic Party in November, Hughes said. “There’s no other reason to do it.”

The rules for the new Voter ID Law are as follows, according to the VotesPA Web site:

All photo IDs must contain an expiration date that is current, unless noted otherwise.  Acceptable IDs include:

*Photo IDs issued by the U.S. Federal Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

*Pennsylvania driver’s license or non-driver’s license photo ID (IDs are valid for voting purposes 12 months past expiration date)

*Valid U.S. passport

*U.S. military ID – active duty and retired military (a military or veteran’s ID must designate an expiration date or designate that the expiration date is indefinite). Military dependents’ ID must contain an expiration date

*Employee photo ID issued by Federal, PA, County or Municipal government

*Photo ID cards from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning

*Photo ID cards issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities

“NO ONE legally entitled to vote will be denied the right to do so,” according to VotesPA. “If you do not have a photo ID or are indigent and unable to obtain one without payment of a fee, you may cast a provisional ballot, and will have six days to provide your photo ID and/or an affirmation to your county elections office to have your ballot count.  If you have a religious objection to being photographed you can still vote by presenting a valid without-photo driver’s license or a valid without-photo ID card issued by PennDOT.”

But those requirements are simply too cumbersome, argue critics who are filing lawsuits against the new rules, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The law is also creating a quandary for people who have religious objections to having their photograph taken, including people in the Amish and some Mennonite communities, according to a story in The Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

“To get a non-photo ID for religious reasons [from the state Department of Transportation], applicants must answer a series of 18 questions that delve deeply into their faiths and other personal information, according to The Patriot-News. “The first item on PennDOT’s form asks applicants to ‘describe your religion.’ It is followed by more questions that devout followers might struggle to answer, and some that inquire about the lives of family members.”

And even after that form is submitted, at least one more form is required, the story reported.

The law was passed last month, but the controversy is just beginning to bubble up.

Be sure to listen in to Court Radio at 7 a.m. Sunday to hear the whole discussion about the voter ID law with co-hosts Dean Weitzman and David Rapoport and their guest, State Sen. Vincent Hughes. And remember to call in with your own questions and comments.

About Court Radio

Listeners can call in with their legal questions to 800-539-1479 or they can email their questions to AskDean@CourtRadio.com. Participants are asked to only ask or submit ONE question each time so that all callers have a chance to discuss the legal topics that are on their minds.

Court Radio is the place to ask your legal questions and get real answers from lawyers with a deep background in the law, from personal injury to contracts and estates, insurance and much more.

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A production of WRNB-FM radio in Philadelphia, Court Radio is brought to you each week by the law offices of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., which is known throughout the Philadelphia area as MyPhillyLawyer.

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