JSPAN Joins Brief In Voter ID Case

JSPAN and nine other non-profit agencies joined in brief amicus curiae to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in the pending challenge to the “Photo ID Law” enacted in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

The case was launched by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Viviette Applewhite and other voters who will be burdened by the new law. Applewhite, a 93 year old voter who has never driven a car, cast her first vote for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There appears to be no record of her at the Motor Vehicle Bureau. Because she was born in another state, there is no birth certificate on file in Pennsylvania either. Before she can vote again, the Photo ID Law would require her to produce a birth certificate or other specific documentation to an office of the Motor Vehicle Bureau to convince that agency to issue her photo identification.

Applewhite and thousands of others like her face serious difficulty under the Photo ID Law. For many elderly people, the need to travel to a motor vehicle bureau and document their entitlement to a photo ID is a significant burden. For many others, securing the necessary voter ID before election day will prove to be impractical or even impossible.

The amicus curiae brief reflects extensive research on the disparate impact of the law on several hundred thousand elder voters who do not have the specific current photo identification called for in order to vote. The right to vote, the amicus brief argues, is a sacred right and is the foundation of democracy, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated that free and equal elections, guaranteed by the state constitution, preclude registration requirements that are so difficult as to amount to a denial of the right to vote. By requiring a registered voter who has no driver’s license — or whose license has expired — to travel to a state office, provide a birth certificate or other specified documentation, and secure the specific photo ID — the law especially burdens and discriminates against the elderly.

For further perspective see The Los Angeles Times, and the amicus brief.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law: The Lawsuit

Even A Ketubah Won’t Help A 91-Year Old Disenfranchised Jewish Grandmother

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,

Det Ansinn, the Borough Council president in Doylestown, told of taking his wife’s 91-year-old grandmother to a PennDot office, looking for a photo ID so she could keep her 70-year voting record intact.

Joyce Block of Doylestown Township is such a dedicated voter that Ansinn took her from the hospital in a wheelchair to vote in 2010 because she couldn’t get an absentee ballot.

She has an old voter registration card with her married name, but she has never had a driver’s license.

Block had all the documents on the Department of State checklist – birth certificate and Social Security card, both with her maiden name; her marriage certificate; deed to her house; Peco bills; plus her IRS refund check. That wasn’t enough to satisfy PennDot, Ansinn said.

Her Hebrew marriage license was rejected because the PennDot worker couldn’t read Hebrew, and the deed and Peco bill were rejected because they had her married name, not her maiden name.

The state worker suggested she take legal action to switch the ownership of her home to her maiden name, which she hasn’t used in 60 years. Then, maybe, she will be allowed to vote in the November election.

“This is absurd,” Block’s daughter, Randee Block, said at the meeting.

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch  From the ACLU Press Release:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Advancement  Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), and  the Washington, DC law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP filed a lawsuit  today on behalf of ten Pennsylvania voters and three prominent advocacy  organizations, alleging 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.

You can see bios of the plaintiffs here. The lead plaintiff is Viviette Applewhite, shown in the video above. She is 93 and lives in Philadelphia. She had an ID card, but it was in her purse and the purse was stolen. This is her official bio:

Ms. Applewhite is an African-American woman born in 1919 in  Philadelphia. Ms. Applewhite worked as a welder during World War II in  the Sun Shipyard in Chester, Pennsylvania. Ms. Applewhite married and  raised a daughter who for decades worked for various federal,  Pennsylvania, and municipal government agencies. Now a widow, Ms.  Applewhite has lived in Philadelphia for more than twenty years and  enjoys five grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, and four  great-great grandchildren. She has voted in nearly every election since  at least 1960. Ms. Applewhite marched to support civil rights for  African-Americans with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Macon, Georgia,  and traveled on several occasions to hear him preach in Atlanta's  Ebeneezer Baptist Church. Ms. Applewhite does not have and has been  unable to obtain photo identification required by Pennsylvania's voter  photo ID law and thus after voting at nearly every election for more  than 50 years will be unable to cast a ballot this November.

Special shout out to Marian Schneider, one of the lawyers at the Advancement Project, who has been working for fair and clean elections all the years I've known her. From the Advancement Project:

The lawsuit claims that the voter photo ID law imposes a severe  burden on the fundamental right to vote in violation of Article I  section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states that,

“Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military,  shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of  suffrage.”

It also alleges that the ID requirement illegally adds a  new qualification for voting.  Article VII section 1 of the state  constitution only requires that people be 18 years of age, U.S.  citizens, and residents of Pennsylvania and their voting district.

Finally, the suit claims that the voter photo ID law irrationally  distinguishes between in-person and absentee voters because the latter  can vote without photo ID (just writing down the last four digits of the  Social Security number).  Pennsylvania allows people to vote absentee  only if they can demonstrate an impossibility of getting to the polls on  Election Day.  While in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent,  there have been far more reports of absentee ballot fraud across the  country, yet under Pennsylvania’s law this form of voting is exempt from  the photo ID requirement.

Lawyers for the petitioners filed a motion for preliminary injunction  with the court, asking for expedited discovery and a trial date in June  in order to allow the Commonwealth Court to decide the case in  sufficient time to permit the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the  decision in advance of November’s election.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that the law triumphs over the racism and cupidity that reigns amoungst the GOP in Harrisburg.