Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will challenge the Voter ID law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March, arguing that it patently violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and federal laws guaranteeing free and equal access to the polls, while placing an unfunded mandate on County taxpayers.
Wagner applauded the efforts of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to lead local efforts to block the law and said she will join Fitzgerald and other leaders at a 2 p.m. press conference today.
“No elected official in our democracy should prevent citizens from voting,” Wagner said. “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.
“I am ashamed that leaders of our Commonwealth are determined to push our residents back to the dark ages,” she added. “Stripping education, human services and transportation funding apparently isn’t enough for them; now they want to take away the right to vote – the most sacred of our rights.”
Wagner endorsed efforts in the courts to keep the law from taking effect before the Nov. 6 General 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 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.”
Wagner said the County trains and supervises more than 7,000 poll workers for each election. All of these workers would have to undergo training in the provisions of the new law and could face fines or prosecution for failing to demand identification.
“While I hope the courts will strike down Voter ID, we must also prepare for the possibility that it will go into effect and the harm it would cause,” she said.
Wagner will send legislation to the County Council that would extend the period for casting provisional ballots to Dec. 18, six weeks after Election Day, and ensure 24-hour staffing of the Department of Elections before, on and after Election Day to protect county voters.
Wagner also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to file suit to quash Pennsylvania’s law, as it has done in South Carolina, Texas and Florida.
“The right to vote is sacred, and this law jeopardizes that right for many County residents,” Wagner said. “I will work with County Executive Fitzgerald and County Council to do everything within our power to ensure our citizens can cast their votes in November.”