Working America activist Vince Neal and field canvass members Kevin Cabiness and Pat Jones joined labor allies in assisting disenfranchised voters at the My Vote, My Right event held outside the PennDOT office in Pittsburgh. We were joined by AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker who offered words of encouragement to voters, “Our elected officials shouldn’t make it this hard on us. It is your right, your vote!”
These words rang clear as Jean Foreman of Pittsburgh took the stage to discuss her journey. Mrs. Foreman was born in 1932 at a segregated hospital that did not print birth certificates for African-American newborns. This has made her path to getting a state ID to vote much more difficult. Fortunately, a lawyer from the United Steelworkers assisted her through the process and Jean Foreman walked out of PennDOT with her voter ID card saying, “It is a struggle to be alive 80 years and have to deal with this after 30 years of voting.”
It is not just seniors who are struggling to track down the proper documents for a voter ID. Kizuwanda Raines approached volunteers this morning with a smile from ear to ear as she told us, “I turned 18 today and all I want for my birthday is a photo ID.” She was armed with her social security card, her Duquesne University ID, and two proofs of residency. Unfortunately, she had no birth certificate. After two trips and one missed class, she was told to wait until next week when her birth certificate would arrive in the mail.
When the civil rights violations of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law came to light, Working America’s Community Action Team set an ambitious goal to reach and educate 1 million voters throughout the state about the new restrictions. Every day, our members discuss this law and its effects with neighbors, coworkers, fellow bus riders, friends, and family.
Vince Neal is one of these motivated members. He has found that the majority of folks in his community are now more likely to vote this November, and when they do, they will be voting against officials who support laws which disenfranchise so many Pennsylvanians. At the event yesterday, Vince told me, “I love seeing so many people helping one another in their community. When I see this kind of compassion, I know that no one can stop our vote.”
Besides educating the public, the Team is collecting information about how this law is affecting Pennsylvanians. Through their conversations, they have found that close to 75 percent of those asked do not completely understand the law, and some folks did not even know the law was already in place. Furthermore, the most important statistic we have found is that 1 in 20 people our members talked to did not have the proper ID for voting this November. It is estimated that 750,000 voters across the state could be turned away from the polls due to lack of the required ID.
Pennsylvanians are frustrated by the thought of losing their vote. Thankfully, Working America’s Community Action Team is here to help! To date, we have reached out to 332,832 Pennsylvanians about the voter ID law.
Want more info? Check out this PA voter checklist or text VOTEPA to 30644.
If you would like to join us and help us reach our goal, please call me, Liz Laycak at our Pittsburgh office 412-456-2985 or email [email protected].