Opinion | S.B. 1 is dangerous, tell your local legislators to vote ‘no’

By Livia LaMarca, Senior Staff Columnist

Last summer, I worked for a state representative in my home state of Illinois. While I can’t promise that every representative is the same as the one that I worked for, at least a decent number will likely listen to their constituents. 

So when I ask you to reach out to your local legislators at the end of this column — listen to me.

In the Pennsylvania state legislature, there’s a proposed constitutional amendment that would be detrimental to voting rightsSenate Bill 1. It passed the state senate on January 11, and if it passes the State House of Representatives, Pennsylvania citizens might vote on it as early as May. Most amendments that reach the public often pass despite confusing language. They are also often added to elections with notoriously low turnout. It’s time that Pennsylvanians know what they might eventually be voting on.

If passed, S.B. 1 would require an ID to vote. At first glance, the requirement doesn’t necessarily seem like a terrible idea. Pennsylvania voters must bring a valid ID when voting at a polling place for the first time. Valid IDs include photo identification such as a driver’s license, student ID and passport, or — more relevant to this discussion — a non-photo identification that includes someone’s name and address, such as a paycheck or utility bill. The problem isn’t simply showing a form of identification, it’s requiring a photo ID.

While you might need a photo ID to drive, purchase a gun or buy alcohol, there’s no law saying every Pennsylvania resident must have a photo ID. Requiring photo identification in order to vote means that if someone wants to vote, they will need to go out and get one. While the bill explicitly states that there will be no cost inflicted on a voter who is seeking an ID to vote, time and resources are needed. 

To many, it might not seem like a big deal. But there are people who simply can’t take time off work, can’t get childcare or don’t have access to transportation to go to a DMV. S.B. 1 is more than just requiring people to get a new ID — it is yet another tool to systemically keep already disenfranchised groups from voting and potentially change the outcome of future elections. There are already so many barriers to voting for low-income people. There’s no need for another.

Everybody is owed the right to vote. In such a highly contested purple state, every single vote counts. No one should have the right to vote taken from them, especially in such a sneaky way that might sway the outcomes of our future elections.

The recent senate and  gubernatorial elections in Pennsylvania were highly contested and highly watched, especially since many people were concerned about their reproductive rights potentially being taken away. In Pennsylvania, abortion was the number one issue that affected people’s votes, many points higher than inflation.  

Legislators added a very good constitutional amendment that would extend the statutory limitations on childhood sexual assault cases to S.B. 1. Even though this amendment would be an overwhelming positive for Pennsylvania residents, because SB 1 also includes the voter ID requirement, it would be extremely harmful if passed. 

Since SB 1 passed the Pennsylvania State Senate a few weeks ago, it’s time to reach out over email or phone to your local Pennsylvania house representative and tell them to vote no on S.B. 1 due to its voter ID requirement. I can’t promise that they will be receptive to their constituents’ opinions, but I do know that some will, especially if enough people contact them. 

Livia LaMarca mostly writes about American political discourse and pop culture. Write to her at [email protected].