It’s done. Legislators have approved changes requiring voters in Pennsylvania to show I.D. at the polls during elections. Opposition and complaints contend that the ID requirement amounts to a modern day poll-tax, taxes once used to keep voters from the polls and therefore constituted another form of voter suppression.
In response to the new voter ID requirement, state Representative Ronald G. Waters held a forum at Sayre High School’s auditorium at 5800 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia, Thursday, March 15 to share awareness about the law as well as to address other community concerns such as school violence and crime.
“We targeted a particular subject that’s pretty important in our area,” said Waters who also chairs the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “Some of the criminal behaviors and violent crime that concerns many residents, most particularly some of the behavior going on in our schools.”
To hear some of the disturbing stories of delinquency of students attending West and Southwest Philadelphia public schools, one need only talk with some of the educators who often speak about the unruliness of some of the pupils, often from troubled homes, who are often supervised by parents who seem just as unruly as the children themselves.
While this problem is of major concern to the residents of West and Southwest Philly, block captain and Committeewoman Julia Chinn stated that the audience seemed mostly concerned about the new voter ID law.
“It was a very good presentation given by the representative [Waters], opening the eyes of a lot of people that wasn’t even aware that the bill [voter ID law] had been passed,” said Chinn. “We need to be educated about what the new law is about and that we are all going to need ID.
Like others interviewed for this story, Chinn believes that the new law is an attempt by conservatives to derail democratic President Barak Obama from regaining the White House.
“Elections are coming soon, and everyone is going to have to have personal ID such as a driver’s license or non-driver’s license to prove who they are when they go to the polls,” said Chinn.
Chinn praised Waters for spelling out the specific requirements of the law for the community and explaining what it will mean to the voters. Unfortunately, said Chinn, the first forum wasn’t very well attended.
“Waters gave a lot of information that was very fruitful to the community.” said Chinn, “I’m concerned that there just weren’t as many people there as should have been to hear this.”
“In Harrisburg, we were very upset about his unnecessary legislation [requiring voter ID] that will be a hardship on some of our constituents, especially the elderly,” said Waters.
Waters referred to his mother who was born in 1929 and was a consistent voter.
“She knows everyone in the polling place, and everybody knows her. Now, if she does not have the required form of ID, she will not be able to vote,” said Waters who called the law a violation of the state constitution which, water says, states that elections should be free and clear without interruptions.
“The Republican members that voted for this all said that it was against voter fraud,” said Waters. “The bill itself is a fraud. We don’t have voter fraud in Pennsylvania.”
Of the 20 million voters in Philadelphia ballots cast, there were only four complaints of voter fraud and these, said Waters, were not actual cases of fraud but issues of registration and eligibility to vote.
For a list of subsequent forums, call Ronald G. Waters’ office at: 215-748-6712.