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.
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