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Thursday, October 18, 2012

State Rep. Ronald G. Waters
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HARRISBURG, Oct. 17 – State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, D-Phila./Delaware, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, joined other members of the PLBC on a panel Tuesday night to field questions about legislation, programs and outreach from members of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Pennsylvania and community at large.

The event was touted as an opportunity for chamber members to meet elected officials and begin forging partnerships between the two entities.

“Tonight we had an opportunity to engage some of the brightest and most influential members of the African American community here in Central Pennsylvania,” Waters said. “We hope to prove in the coming months that promises to support small businesses in our communities is not just rhetoric and meeting face-to-face with the folks who run them was the perfect place to start,” he added.

The panel opened themselves up to a variety of issues, as attendees touched on an array of topics, from voter ID to education. There were questions asked pertaining to health care, the economy and job creation; but, in perhaps what can be categorized amongst the most pertinent issues discussed, chamber members were able to ask questions about the PLBC, its role in the legislature, and how the caucus could be of service to businesses.

“It is clear from the interest in tonight’s meeting that the PLBC and the AACCCP have very similar objectives—we want to encourage education in the black community and set up programs to help promote positive attitudes towards the learning process,” Waters said.

“We also want to inspire other members of the black community to dream big, put their ideas into action and to pursue small business ownership.”

In addition to Waters, the PLBC panel was made up of Reps. Vanessa Brown, PLBC vice chairwoman; Tony Payton Jr.; Thaddeus Kirkland; and Jake Wheatley.

As they closed, the PLBC panel urged attendees to utilize the caucus as a community resource.

“We are here to serve,” Waters said.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

House Members Speak Out on Voter ID Law

Visit the PA House Democrats' YouTube page to learn how members have been fighting to protect your right to vote! Check out the latest videos from yesterday's voter id press conference held by the PLBC!

Democratic lawmakers hail voter ID court decision but say there's more work to do

Published: Wednesday, October 03, 2012, 4:21 PM Updated: Wednesday, October 03, 2012, 4:58 PM
JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News
Tuesday's Commonwealth Court decision that put the requirement for voters to show a photo ID to vote in the Nov. 6 election was declared a victory by the law's opponents but more work lies ahead.
While waiting on a final decision from Gov. Tom Corbett's administration about whether it will appeal Judge Robert Simpson's ruling, Democratic leaders and other law opponents said efforts to permanently repeal the work need to put on the back burner.
For now, the focus must be on voter education efforts that no photo ID is required and the need for people to register by the Oct. 9 deadline.
"We got six days to register more voters and 36 days until it's time to go place that vote," said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.
Corbett indicated on Monday that he was leaning against appealing the Simpson's decision, but no decision has been made, a spokeswoman said.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson did not order a halt to the state's voter ID education campaign. That also drew criticism from those gathered at a Capitol news conference.
The law's opponents said the ads that tell people they have to "show it" and flash a photo ID will only confuse people, given Simpson's ruling that the law will not take effect next month. Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton, called on the state to replace those with ads with ones telling people they do not need a photo ID to vote.
Sturla said voters also should be aware of another part of the ruling when they go to vote.
"I want to caution people though the part that is still in effect the pollworkers … are still supposed to ask you courteously to see if you want to produce a photo ID. You have the right to courteously decline or to courteously show them your photo ID. If they insist that they will not allow you to vote if you don't show a voter ID, you can tell them instead of just showing it, to just shove it," Sturla said.
Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, was doubtful that the Corbett administration would appeal Simpson's ruling to the Supreme Court. He said the high court, by a 4-2 vote, asked Simpson to prove that the law's implementation would not suppress any votes and "they couldn't do that" so an appeal to that same court would make no sense.
Andy Hoover of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which led the court challenge to the voter ID law, said since the Supreme Court doesn't convene until Oct. 15, that would leave only three weeks before the election for that court to make a decision. . Given the confusion that already surrounds the law, Hoover said, " adding more confusion would not be good for the democratic process.”

© 2012 All rights reserved.

PLBC Celebrates Judge's Ruling at Voter ID News Conference

State Rep. Ronald G. Waters
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HARRISBURG, Oct. 4 – On Wednesday, state Rep. Ronald G. Waters, D-Phila./Delaware, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, was joined by members of the PLBC, Democratic colleagues from both the House and the Senate, the ACLU and the NAACP at a news conference to discuss Tuesday’s Commonwealth Court ruling in the voter ID case.
Judge Robert E. Simpson was unable to conclude that changes to the ID acquisition process would cure the deficiency to liberal access as identified by the state Supreme Court and issued an injunction, blocking the requirement of photo ID to cast a vote in the Nov. 6 elections.
Waters said that the purpose of the news conference was to applaud the temporary injunction issued by Judge Simpson and to clear up any confusion as to how the ruling affects the upcoming elections.
"Simple – on November 6, you can go and vote without any restriction except registration," Waters said. The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 9.
"In the general election, people will not be required to have ID in order to cast their constitutional right – without any infringement upon their ability to go to the ballot and vote for the candidate of their choice," Waters later added.
Waters stressed how pleased he was to see members of both legislative chambers represented, including Democratic Senate Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes and House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody.
Dermody pointed out the fact that the injunction only blocked the photo ID requirements for the Nov. 6 elections.
"This law is still on the books and it threatens the constitutional rights of citizens," Dermody said
"Yesterday’s ruling was good news; the fight still must go on. This law should never take effect. There should never be a law on the books that threatens the constitutional right to cast a vote," he added.
House Democratic Whip Mike Hanna also gave remarks at the conference, and he addressed the issue facing the state to re-educate citizens on voting requirements for the elections.
"What I’d really like to do here today is to stand here and call on the governor, call on PennDot, call on the Department of State to spend 10 million dollars to let people know that they have the right to vote," Hanna said.
"They spent 10 million dollars telling senior citizens, minorities and students that they didn’t have the right to vote, so they should match that money between now and November 6 to tell people that they do have the right to vote and that they should come to the polls on November 6," Hanna added.
Waters and many of the other speakers echoed Hanna’s plea, calling on the Corbett administration to immediately suspend the outreach efforts and the advertisements promoting the necessity of photo ID to vote.
In addition to Waters and Hughes, several other members of the PLBC attended the news conference, including: Reps. Harold James, Michelle Brownlee, James Roebuck, Vanessa Brown, Gary Williams, Margo Davidson, John Myers and Thaddeus Kirkland.
Other attendees included Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa; House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla; House State Government Committee Democratic Chairwoman Babette Josephs; Reps. Maria Donatucci, Mike Gerber, Brendan Boyle, Eugene DePasquale and Madeleine Dean; ACLU of Pennsylvania Legislative Director Andy Hoover; and NAACP Greater Harrisburg Chapter President Stanley Lawson.

Free Rides to PennDOT available for voter ID

State Rep. Harold James
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Free rides to PennDOT available for voter ID
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 2 – Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, Philadelphia Delegation and Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity on Monday announced an initiative to provide free rides to Philadelphians who wish to register to vote or obtain acceptable photo ID under the state's voter ID law.
"Getting the appropriate photo ID will be made easier with the free rides being offered by local churches," said Rep. Harold James, D-Phila. "I am hopeful that everyone who needs an ID will take advantage of this service during the coming week."
The Rev. Terrence Griffith, pastor of the First African Baptist Church and president of the Black Clergy, invited all religious institutions to participate in offering the free rides. Those interested in helping out should contact him.
"It was wonderful to see Rev. Griffith, as well as female clergy and members of the Islamic community stepping forward to make sure that everyone's right to vote is protected should the voter ID law remain on the books," said Rep. Ronald G. Waters, D-Phila./Delaware, chairman of the PLBC.
"This is a logical next step for the PLBC to support," said Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., PLBC vice-chairwoman. "We have been active in providing the proper information to our constituents, now, thanks to the Black Clergy, we have the opportunity to get them to where they need to get their IDs."
The free rides to Department of Transportation Driver's License Centers will be offered beginning today through Oct. 9. Anyone wishing to request a ride should call the Black Clergy at 267-639-9875.
"Our goal is to ensure that all Philadelphians have access to the resources they need to acquire the proper ID for voting purposes," said Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, D-Phila. "I commend everyone for stepping up to the plate and encourage all leaders of Philadelphia’s diverse religious communities to get involved." Parker is chairwoman of the Philadelphia House Delegation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pa. Supreme Court must overturn voter ID law 
Published: Sunday, September 09, 2012, 12:53 AM
By Patriot-News Op-EdThe Patriot-News
By Rep. Ronald G. Waters
The moral outrage and national embarrassment over Pennsylvania’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law are well-deserved. But what’s most disturbing about this law is the fact that it’s a blatant abuse of power by the controlling party in Harrisburg — the Republicans — for purely partisan political gain.
Rep. Ronald G. Waters

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday on whether to stop the voter ID law from taking effect this fall. While the justices should keep in mind the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians likely to be disenfranchised by this law, they also should be mindful of their role as a constitutional check against abuses of power by the Legislature and the governor.
These six Supreme Court justices (the seventh has been suspended while she faces criminal charges) might be the only people who can stop this unconstitutional Republican power grab. The Supreme Court is evenly split politically — three Democrats and three Republicans. If the court’s voter ID decision ends in a 3-3 tie, the Commonwealth Court’s ruling would be upheld and voter ID would remain in effect for November’s elections.
That’s why all eyes will be on Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille. A Republican and former Philadelphia district attorney, Castille has been known to set party allegiances aside in his rulings. Most recently, he stunned political observers by throwing out the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s redrawn state House and Senate district maps.
In his written opinion on that case, Castille wrote “It is true, of course, that redistricting has an inevitably legislative, and therefore an inevitably political, element; but, the constitutional commands and restrictions on the process exist precisely as a brake on the most overt of potential excesses and abuse.” Those words — “a brake on the most overt of potential excesses and abuse” — are surprisingly relevant in the voter ID case.
Let’s remember that state House Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai made this now-infamous remark “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” It doesn’t get more overt than that. Turzai’s comments were a rare moment of political honesty about what the voter ID law truly is — a partisan scam intended to rig a presidential election for the Republican candidate.
Even the Commonwealth Court judge called Turzai’s statements “disturbing” and “tendentious.” Unfortunately, the judge glossed over Turzai comments. The Supreme Court should not make the same mistake. This law clearly was never about preventing voter fraud, as there have been zero instances of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania — the only type of fraud this law would prevent.
No, the majority leader of the state House didn’t misspeak, and he wasn’t speaking as just one lone powerless member of the House. He spoke from a position of authority — as the person in charge of legislation in the state House.
This law is intended to suppress the vote of traditionally Democratic-leaning populations — minorities, women, seniors, individuals with disabilities and young adults. These are people who are most likely not to have a U.S. passport or a Pennsylvania driver’s license and do not have adequate resources to obtain an acceptable alternative form of identification.
This strategic ploy was meant to impact voters within months of its passage, leaving many bewildered, overwhelmed and angry. Citizens must quickly learn the law’s requirements and their responsibilities in ensuring they have an acceptable proof of identification to cast their ballots on Nov. 6.
Some citizens are forced to determine if their current identification will be accepted while others who do not have identification must compile and submit the required paperwork quickly to be able to vote. To make matters worse, only PennDOT licensing centers can issue the alternative acceptable form of identification and those centers often are not convenient and are open limited hours. Lack of transportation to the PennDOT centers is a serious hurdle for many voters.
It is my hope that the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Castille, will do the right thing by all Pennsylvanians and stop this undemocratic law — a transparent abuse of power — from being implemented in November. If those six justices fail to stop this sham of a voter ID law, they will share in the stained legacy that this law will leave for future generations. 
Rep. Ronald G. Waters represents the 191st Legislative District in portions of Philadelphia and Delaware counties and serves as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.