WASHINGTON -- A top Republican in Pennsylvania is facing a firestorm for recently admitting that a voter identification law in the state likely would help GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney win the presidential election in November.
At a Republican state committee meeting last weekend, state Rep. Mike Turzai's (R-Allegheny) extolled the Republican Party's achievements over the past two years, while it has controlled both the governor's seat and the legislature.
"Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done," said Turzai. "First pro-life legislation -- abortion facility regulations -- in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Democrats seized upon his remarks as confirmation that the law is being pushed for political reasons rather than to combat voter fraud. Turzai's comments could also complicate his relationship with the state's largest labor union, which has donated more than $40,000 to him since 2006.
In March, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed the law, requiring residents to show photo ID when going to the polls. Republicans have said this type of legislation is necessary in order to combat voter fraud. Democrats have pointed out there is little evidence of voter fraud, and photo ID laws are mainly attempts to disenfranchise voters who traditionally back Democrats.
Turzai, however, has received some support from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which -- like other labor unions -- is traditionally a constituency that backs Democrats.
In the 2012 election cycle, PSEA has donated $5,000 to Turzai. But there's a good chance it could donate more, based on past contributions.
Neither PSEA nor its national parent union, NEA, returned multiple requests for comment.
Associations like this have, in the past, gotten other education groups in hot water with progressives. For example, Michelle Rhee -- a foe of labor unions -- was harshly criticized for financially supporting a candidate who opposed LGBT rights.
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who is leading the Pennsylvania Democrats' Senate reelection efforts, said Turzai's remarks show the voter ID law "was never about solving any actual problem or stopping voter fraud."
"The top Republican in the House has admitted the whole intent of this bill. They passed Voter ID to enable Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania," said Leach.
Below, more controversial voting laws:
Tensions run high in Florida, a critical battleground state that passed an election law last year with several contested provisions. One bans a decade-long practice of early voting on Sundays before the election -- a window when as many as 30 percent of black voters have previously cast ballots after attending church in a "souls to the polls" movement. Republican lawmakers claim the provision is meant to reduce election fraud, but some black Democrats say the calculation is more sinister. "It's my feeling it was done deliberately, a premeditated design, to suppress the vote of African-Americans in this country because it's playing out all over the nation in every state. It was intentional," Florida Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) said.
The Justice Department dealt a blow to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, arguing that it discriminated along racial lines. Haley's administration fired back with a lawsuit that is expected to be decided in September. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said earlier this year that Republicans hope to tip the outcome of the presidential election by lowering voter turnout by 1 percent in each of nine states that have passed voter ID laws, the West Ashley Patch reports. "I know nothing has changed yet," he said. "But I just do not trust the judiciary that we're operating under."
Under Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, voters must show a photo ID issued by the state or federal government. The state-issued IDs are free, but getting one requires a birth certificate, which costs $10 in Pennsylvania. Not everyone is having an easy time navigating the new system. Earlier this month, Viviette Applewhite, 93, filed a lawsuit with the ACLU and NAACP challenging the law. Applewhite, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, does not have a driver's license, and the state cannot find her birth certificate. She is afraid that this year will be the first since 1960 that she will be unable to vote. Applewhite's dilemma is not uncommon. Some 700,000 Pennsylvanians lack photo ID and half of them are seniors. According to the Brennan Center, 25 percent of voting-age black citizens have no government-issued photo ID, compared to 8 percent of white citizens.
The Kansas House voted earlier this year to move up the date a proof of citizenship law goes into effect to June 15, 2012, so it will limit who can vote in the presidential election. HuffPost's John Celock reports: Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka) said the entire idea of proof of citizenship to vote would fail in court due to it being discriminatory against married women who change their names. Mah said that women who change their name need to provide proof of marriage and citizenship and an affidavit regarding the name change. Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) took issue with Mah's claims of court challenges. "I get frustrated that everyone who does not like policy says we'll end up in court," he said. Only 48 percent of voting-age women with access to their birth certificates have a birth certificate with a current legal name, which means that as many as 32 million American women do not have proof of citizenship with their current legal name, according to the Brennan Center. The bill to change the start date eventually failed, but will still go into effect next year.
Last year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a voter ID bill into law, calling it a "common sense reform" that would "go a long way to protecting the integrity of elections in Wisconsin." As Walker's June 5 recall election approached, two judges suspended it on the basis that it is unconstitutional. Still, poll workers reportedly asked some voters to show photo ID during Wisconsin's April 2 primary, and one woman said that she and her 87-year-old mother were turned away at the polls because they lacked current photo IDs -- even though they were registered to vote. "We were listed on their friggin' poll list and yet we had our names highlighted," the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.