SCRANTON, Jan. 17, 2014 – State Sen. John Blake today issued the following statement in reaction to Commonwealth Court Judge John McGinley’s decision to strike down Pennsylvania’s law requiring voters to show proper identification before casting ballots:
“This ruling is a vindication of the position I and my Senate Democratic colleagues have held from the outset; that this was ill-advised public policy aimed at suppressing voting rights.
“We knew this law failed constitutional muster and needed to be eliminated. I am grateful that Judge McGinley agreed with the petitioners’ argument that ‘the right to vote is … irreplaceable’ and ‘necessitat[es] its protection before any deprivation occurs.’
“Voter deprivation and diminished democracy would be the result if this bad voter ID law was allowed to continue. I applaud the decision and hope the Corbett administration cedes its vision of a controlled electorate.
“Pennsylvania is a democracy and part of the greatest Democratic experiment on earth. Any law like voter ID that suppresses the vote and disenfranchises thousands of people who have always voted just by signing their name to the registry on Election Day is the antithesis of what our founding fathers intended and wanted.
“I understand Judge McGinley’s decision is appealable to the state Supreme Court, but it would be folly and a continued waste of precious tax dollars if that petition goes to the next level.
“We have to find ways to cover a more than $1 billion deficit for the new fiscal year. Spending more money on top of the millions already spent by the administration to defend this unconstitutional endeavor would be catastrophic.”
HARRISBURG, October 2, 2012 – – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) issued the following statement in response to today’s Commonwealth Court ruling on the Voter ID law.
“It is encouraging that Judge Robert Simpson’s ruling effectively postpones the ill effects of a misguided and improperly motivated Voter ID law, but it is still not the endgame. This ruling signals that the tide is turning against any laws that would serve to suppress the vote and any laws that would disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters from exercising their most fundamental right.
“While the ruling itself is a victory for Pennsylvania voters, the costs incurred by the Commonwealth in trying to administer it should be of concern to all Pennsylvanians. Millions of state dollars have been spent implementing, promoting, challenging and defending this law – costs that clearly could have been avoided when our state budget is so constrained.”
“The focus now — and always — has to be on encouraging the vote while assuring trust and integrity in the outcomes of our elections at all levels of government. It is time to re-double our efforts to those ends and to pursue them with proper consideration to state spending priorities.”
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SCRANTON, August 15, 2012 – – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today expressed disappointment and concern over a Commonwealth Court ruling that denied a temporary injunction on Pennsylvania’s partisan-driven Voter ID law.
“Since the Voter ID bill was first proposed by state Republican leaders, I have been skeptical of the bill’s motives and deeply concerned for the hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who could be turned away from the polls in our critically important national election in November,” Blake said. “A democracy works best when there is maximum voter participation. Unfortunately, this law serves to suppress the vote for partisan advantage. Any questions about its motives were utterly dispelled in the recent public commentary of House Republican Leader Mike Turzai.”
Blake noted that a recent report by the Pennsylvania Department of State estimated that 758,000 registered voters – more than 40,000 in the three counties that comprise the 22nd Senatorial District – do not have photo identification cards from the state Department of Transportation. A significant number of these voters are senior citizens that do not drive.
“It is time for the Commonwealth to aggressively follow through on its plan to provide a free and valid ID to anyone lacking the proper identification to vote,” Blake added. “Even though many of us are dissatisfied by today’s court ruling, we must take the proper steps to ensure that all voters – regardless of party affiliation – can properly participate in the November election.”
In the court case, the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned for an injunction to halt the implementation of the Voter ID law. The ACLU argued that the state had made it too onerous for residents to obtain the proper identification required to vote under the law. Judge Robert E. Simpson ruled against the ACLU, stating that it did not, among other things, inflict greater injury in refusing to grant the injunction than in granting it.
The ACLU plans to appeal the Court ruling within the week.
“I have the utmost respect for our judicial process and I am hopeful that, upon appeal, the state Supreme Court will rule in favor of voter participation and not voter suppression,” Blake added. “While we await a final ruling on Voter ID, it is crucial for everyone to understand the provisions of the law and how to ensure you are able to exercise your right to vote in November.”
Senator Blake, State Rep. Ed Staback (D-Lackawanna/Wayne) and other local officials will host a free informational seminar on the new Voter ID law on Tuesday, August 21 at 6 p.m. at Valley View High School in Archbald. All residents with questions about the new law are encouraged to attend.
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SCRANTON, March 16, 2012 – – Calling it another example of self-interest, party politics infecting governance and public policy, state Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today commented on the Republican Voter ID bill signed into law by Governor Corbett Wednesday night.
House Bill 934 will require voters to present photo identification or a very narrow list of other accepted forms of identification each time they vote. It is estimated that there are more than 340,000 senior citizens in Pennsylvania that do not have a form of identification as is prescribed by this law.
“This law is an affront to county workers who have dedicated the better part of their lives to protect the integrity of our mature democratic process and it is an insult to many seniors, veterans and persons with disabilities who may not have the requisite photo identification,” Blake said.
Blake said that not only will this law be unreasonably costly, estimated to cost between $5 and $11 million in the first year and another $2.25 million per year every year going forward to reimburse PennDOT for providing free IDs to prospective voters, but also aims to solve a voter fraud problem that does not exist in Pennsylvania.
“Through three weeks of Appropriations Committee budget hearings, all I heard from the Corbett administration is that the legislature must cut state spending. This administration has cut billions of dollars from education, human services and economic development but somehow found the money to spend on a solving a problem that doesn’t exist – so we are using money we don’t have for something we don’t need,” Blake added. “This law will only protect against voter impersonation, which is so rare that Pennsylvania citizens are more likely to get struck by lightning.”
Blake said that legislating voter impersonation on a state level is unnecessary because it already carries harsh fines and imprisonment of up to five years under federal law. A Department of Justice statistic has shown that since 2008, more than 20 million votes were cast in Pennsylvania and there were only four convictions of voter fraud.
The new law will be in effect for the November elections.
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