AARP Says Senior Voters Will Suffer From Voter-ID Law
“You’re people and you vote,” Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer told a crowd of about 100 AARP members and volunteers yesterday at Independence Mall. “That means when your leaders go to the government, your leaders are respected and your leaders are listened to and that’s what voting is about.”
Singer joined members of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Committee of Seventy, the Senior Law Center and others as they both rallied against Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law and sought to inform a particularly vulnerable voting bloc—senior citizens—of the law and what it will mean come November.
The rally’s tone reflected both outrage over the law—which requires all voters to show a government-issued voter identification this November—and hope that senior citizens, with their active voice in politics, can help change things.
Seniors are particularly affected by Voter ID, passed in March 2012, for several reasons. First off, many were born before birth certificates were commonplace, and may were delivered in a family home, with a midwife and therefore, somewhat off the grid. Many seniors do not drive and therefore have not had a reason to obtain a driver’s license in recent years.
A recent Brennan Center of Justice study found about 21 million people nationwide lack a valid, government-issued ID. And data recently released by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation show that about 758,000 Pennsylvania voters are among them. The ACLU and others begin a court case in Harrisburg next week, though the results of that trial are far from certain. Therefore, many of yesterday’s speakers focused on learning the law, gaining proper identification and making sure everyone you know does, too.
“A woman by the name of Viviette Applewhite, who was born here in Philadelphia…[has] never driven a car,” noted Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, one of the plaintiffs in the state case. “She marched with Dr. [Martin Luther] King [and] voted in every election since 1960. Her record is now in jeopardy.”
Applewhite, explained Shuford, is exactly the kind of person the state Legislature overlooked. The widow does not have ID and cannot gain one since her birth certificate does not match her current name, which is on several forms of her nonphoto identification, such as her bank card.
Critics have been sounding the alarm on what Voter ID may mean for elderly voters for some time now. In an interview with PhillyNow back in December 2011, Karen Buck of the Senior Law Center noted many amendments being added to the bill did not take into account the lack of driver’s licenses within the senior population.
“And there’s a whole sector of African-American seniors who may have been born in the South who were never issued birth certificates,” she said at the time.
The AARP released information at yesterday’s event noting voters 65 and older were about evenly split for Obama and McCain in 2008, respectively supporting the candidates 49 percent to 51 percent.
Among the volunteers on the site was Mark Graham, of Brewerytown. “The law doesn’t make any sense,” he told PW. “It’s too many factors that prohibits a lot of people from voting. I don’t know who dreamt up this law in the first place.”
Graham admitted that many of his friends, including members of his family, are not aware of all the rules associated with the law.
“Many of my friends don’t know about the law. I can honestly tell you that,” he said.