By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
MILTON -- Teens who will turn 18 before the November election -- becoming freshly minted voters -- are a prime demographic for politicians of all stripes, said Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele, a fact she encouraged Milton Area Senior High School students to use to their advantage.
"You will be the target of an unbelievable push" from candidates seeking office from state representative to U.S. president, Aichele said Thursday to about 35 students and Willard Hanlon, a social studies teacher, gathered in the high school library. "Your age group is highly underserved. ... It's a lot of power in your hands."
Aichele visited Milton after the school responded to an invitation from her office, extended to all 500 Pennsylvania school districts, to discuss voter registration and other issues she handles.
However, the conversation mostly was about the voter ID bill that, if it becomes law, will require Pennsylvania's registered voters to show photo identification at the poll before casting their ballots.
The state House recently passed the bill, which is likely to reach the state Senate floor next week.
Students were ready with questions on the controversial bill.
"Is the point of this bill to stop illegal immigrants from voting?" asked David Everitt, a 16-year-old sophomore.
In responding, Aichele said she's heard the voter ID bill called "a remedy without a problem." There is no documented voter fraud incident in Pennsylvania, and the bill is criticized for possibly disenfranchising the elderly and poor, who likely don't have drivers' licenses, the most frequently used form of ID.
"For me, the issue is making sure that all citizens who have the right to vote do so, and do so once," she said.
"I think it's a good idea," said Kaley Griffin, an 18-year-old senior, adding it ensures that the person casting the vote is indeed the registered person.
Aichele also said Pennsylvania will issue an ID free of charge to anyone who asks for one at a state driver's center.
"It will cost about $1 million to do this, but out of a $27 billion budget, it's worth it," she said, adding that drug stores, airlines and even UPS require photo ID in the post 9/11 world.
Jacquille Drummond, a 20-year-old senior, raised the disenfranchisement issue. Aichele said there wouldn't be disenfranchised voters because people also can ask for a provisional ballot at the polls, which is mailed and counted after election day.
"If photo IDs are a good idea, why isn't it already in place?" asked Edward Babakovic, a 16-year-old junior.
Aichele said that was an excellent question but she didn't have an answer. She did, however, cite the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush that started the voter ID cause in some states.
Tied to the voting question, redistricting in Pennsylvania came up. Pennsylvania is losing one representative in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the 2010 census, and while Milton will remain in the 10th Congressional District, the rest of Northumberland County will become part of the 11th Congressional District.