93 Year-Old Woman Exposes Cracks in Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law

Meet Viviette Applewhite, the new face of the nationwide, corporate-backed assault on voting rights.

Applewhite is 93 years old, and she has voted in every election for the past 60 years. She even marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Georgia. But under Pennsylvania’s new voter suppression law HB 934, championed by the radical Rep. Daryl Metcalfe with a strong assist from ALEC, Viviette Applewhite cannot exercise her right to vote.

Applewhite doesn’t drive and her purse containing her identification card was stolen. She’s been unable to obtain an identification card since because officials can’t track down her birth certificate.

Applewhite is one of the plaintiffs in ACLU-PA’s legal challenge to the voter suppression law, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed in March. And while her situation is quite specific, there are hundreds of other ways in which the law effectively disenfranchises Pennsylvania citizens, as shown by the suit’s other plaintiffs:

Other plaintiffs in the case include a transgender man…a 89-year-old resident who initially couldn’t get a driver’s license because her marriage certificate is in Hebrew and another 93-year-old woman who has limited mobility and trouble getting to the polls.

(You can watch videos of some of the other plaintiffs on the ACLU-PA website.)

They aren’t alone, either. As voting rights activist Faye Anderson told the Philadelphia Weekly, one of the groups most affected by this new law are divorced women:

“If a woman wants to change her name to vote, she has to produce her marriage license,” says Anderson, noting many newlyweds often forget to change their name on their driver’s license. “It’s possible that we can have a situation in which a voter in Pennsylvania without ID, a married woman who is now divorced, will have to stand in four separate lines to gather the documents that she would need to show voter ID.”

What about the thousands of Pennsylvania students at Penn State, Temple, and the State System of Higher Education colleges like Kutztown and East Stroudsberg, who want to use their school ID to cast a ballot? They’re out of luck – the law requires the use of ID with expiration dates, which most college ID’s do not have.

In addition to the many women and seniors disproportionately affected by this policy, there are the usual targets of voter suppression: minorities and low-income voters, who are more likely not to have state-issued ID.

The biggest joke of the Pennsylvania voter suppression law? It seeks to prevent a practice that largely does not exist. Supporters of the law try to conjure up fear of old-school city machine-style politics, like the “walking around money” once given out on the streets of Philadelphia, or the “dead voters” in Chicago. But those practices, to the extent that they exist, are not affected by HB 934:

But the law’s main provision, requiring the state’s 8.2 million registered voters to produce drivers’ licenses or other official forms of photo ID, appears to target a kind of fraud that by all accounts hasn’t cropped up in recent years in the city or state.

“The phrase used is voter impersonation, where John Doe pretends to be Henry Jones in order to cast a vote,” Harvey said. “No one has identified any such cases, certainly in Philadelphia, in my time frame.” Harvey is 75.

Remember again, HB 934 costs the taxpayers $6 million – while cash-strapped schools across Pennsylvania go wanting.

We agree with the ACLU: not only is HB 934 unconstitutional, but Corbett, Metcalfe, and their allies never sought to address any actual problems by pushing the law. Their goal is to keep enough voters away from the polls to remain in power and keep champions of working families out of office, so that the coffers of their corporate backers can go unscathed by closing loopholes, a fairer tax system, or any sort of accountability.

In Wisconsin, a permanent injunction is keeping that state’s voter suppression law from impeding the will of the voters in the June 5 gubernatorial recall. Hopefully, the ACLU suit will succeed and a legal injunction will keep this disgusting law from disenfranchising thousands in November.

Go get ‘em, Miss Applewhite.

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