The award for Creative Problem Solving in Harrisburg this week goes to Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, for a truly inspired entry: He proposes to fix a problem we don't have by exacerbating two problems we do have.
Metcalfe is pushing a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID every time they vote. Now, voters must present ID only the first time they appear at a polling place, and can choose from a range of acceptable forms, including utility bills and paychecks. The Metcalfe bill would limit those options to a few forms of government ID.
Metcalfe says this is necessary to reduce voter fraud. But State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, looked up how many Pennsylvanians were convicted of voter fraud at the polls in elections in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. The grand total: Four. Voter fraud is a problem Pennsylvania doesn't have.
One problem we do have, as Philadelphians saw yesterday, is voter turnout. And since 11 percent of eligible voters don't have official photo ID, it stands to reason that measures such as Metcalfe's will only make things worse, especially for poor people, who are most likely to fall into this category. (Metcalfe argues that certain states have seen turnout rise after enacting voter-ID laws, but those increases were more likely because of high-profile elections.)
Another problem we have is a budget deficit. Enacting Metcalfe's bill, which includes a provision requiring the state to provide free photo ID to anyone who needs it, would make it worse. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that between paying for the IDs, lost revenue to PennDOT and a voter-education campaign that would need to accompany the law, the measure would cost $11 million.
Eleven million dollars of taxpayer money to address a nonexistent problem? Sounds like a bad deal.