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Viviette Applewhite is 93 years old and has voted in nearly every election for the last 60 years. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Georgia. She has tried for years to obtain photo ID to no avail. Under Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, Ms. Applewhite's vote will not be counted. She is a plaintiff in our lawsuit to stop voter ID.
Mrs. Applewhite doesn't have a photo ID. Her purse was stolen and she hasn't been able to replace her identification because state officials can't find her birth certificate. And she won't be able to vote in Pennsylvania this fall. She's the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state's new voter suppression law that was recently filed by the ACLU, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and the Washington, DC, law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP.
The lawsuit alleges that the state's voter photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by depriving citizens of their most fundamental constitutional right - the right to vote. The plaintiffs are asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of the law before November's election. If the law is not overturned, most of the plaintiffs will be unable to cast ballots in the fall, despite the fact that many of them have voted regularly for decades.
Among the other petitioners:
  • Pittsburgh resident Henrietta Kay Dickerson was required by PennDOT to pay for the ID because her old one had not been expired for more than a year, a qualification not contained in the law but which PennDOT is regularly enforcing." In other words, this is a poll tax.
  • Asher Schor is a transgender man (female to male) whose driver's license has a picture of a woman and says he is female, but because he now looks, dresses and sounds like a man is likely to encounter problems at the polls in November.
  • Bea Bookler is a 93-year-old woman with limited mobility who uses her walker to get to the polling station next door to her assisted-living facility, but she does not have ID and the burden of getting the necessary documents and the ID itself would be too much for this senior citizen.
  • Joyce Block is an 89-year-old resident of Doylestown who was rejected for a voter ID by PennDOT because she did not have legal documents proving that her married name on the voter registration really was the same person listed on her birth certificate. Her only evidence was a marriage certificate in Hebrew, which the PennDOT staff could not read.
In order to get the accepted Pennsylvania photo ID, would-be voters have to provide a raised seal birth certificate and an official Social Security card. In a perfect Catch-22, those who don't have Social Security cards need photo IDs in order to obtain them. The $10 fee to get a copy of a birth certificate is non-waivable. The state is supposed to provide state IDs for free, but that's not been the experience of would-be voters. "Dozens of reports have been received about PennDOT's refusal to issue free IDs, insisting, for example, that people must pay because they have had an ID in the past, their ID has not been expired long enough, they don't replace lost ones for free, or people with outstanding child support or fines don't qualify for free IDs."

Pennsylvania's voter ID law, like so many of the other states', is nothing less than a poll tax. Lawyers have asked that the court block implementation of the law, and have  requested an expedited hearing of the case, hoping to have the suit settled by November.

For more of the week's news, make the jump below the fold.

In other news:

  • The Obama campaign is out in the field now, running voter registration education programs for staff and volunteers in key states with strict new voting laws. And they're serious about it:
    All volunteers and staff members in Florida are required to attend a mandatory session on the new laws, campaign officials said. Those who go through the training must pass a quiz administered by the campaign before they can attempt to register voters on the president’s behalf.

    Those who pass are registered with Florida’s election officials and are provided with additional instruction on how to meet the state’s 48-hour rule.

    The laws for organizations registering voters are particularly onerous in Florida, enough so that the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote are sitting this election out in the Sunshine State, ready to start registering voters again if the law is struck down. They don't want to risk running afoul of the new law and damaging future efforts.
  • New documents released in the ongoing voter suppression case in Maryland show that the plan was deliberate, well-funded and very clearly planned with the stated goal: "The first and most desired outcome is voter suppression." The case has already resulted in the conviction of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign manager Paul Schurick. Now consultant Julius Henson is on trial, and the evidence is pretty damning.

    This, my friends, is what a conspiracy to interfere with an election really looks like.

    A third document contained notes from a Henson employee that said: "Suppress turnout in black communities," next to the words: "Obama, O'Malley, Oh No!"
  • A United Steelworkers forum in Charleston, South Carolina, attempted to help voters understand what they need to do to comply with the state's new law in the event that court challenges against it fail, and it goes into effect. The forum also highlighted just how complicated, and expensive, implementing the law could be. Some 200,000 of the state's registered voters don't currently have photo ID that would be accepted under the law.
    Susan Dunn, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting the state, said it remains unclear how much this election ID system will cost and how the state will pay for it and maintain it.

    Adding to the confusion is the possibility that such photo voter IDs could be issued on Election Day, but only to voters who registered a month before. “Explaining all this to the public is going to be very, very hard,” Dunn said.

  • Colorlines' Brentin Mock went into the belly of the voter suppression beast—a "True the Vote" conference in Houston.
    They were stuck in a reality that was unfamiliar to anyone who’s been paying attention to voter issues. Speakers — among them, Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky, Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton and former title-challenged DOJ employee J. Christian Adams — spoke about the voter ID cause as if they were failing, as if sixteen states didn’t pass photo voter ID laws, most of them in just the past 18 months. As if a federal court didn’t just validate a strict photo voter ID law in Arizona the week before the conference. [...]

    It’s like the Koch-funded propaganda campaigns to block climate change truths by declaring it a hoax. Except here they use an actual hoax — voter fraud — to block voting rights. In this arena, contrary to True the Vote’s speakers, these campaigns appear to be winning, if only in the sense that democracy loses every time a state passes a photo voter ID law.

    It was a room of true believers, frothed up by the people who should know better, including former Rep. Artur Davis, who's auditioning for a Fox News gig by becoming the Right's favorite "Democrat." They use the usual weapon to get the tea party crowd riled up—fear. Fox News is there to help.
  • On Monday in Cleveland, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Sherrod Brown will hold a field hearing on Ohio's new voting law. The event will beheld under the auspices of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
    HB 194 drastically limits early voting, eliminates the requirement that poll workers help voters find the proper precinct, and makes voting absentee more difficult by preventing counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to residents.
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