Advocates Say Population Having Trouble Getting ‘Free’ IDs
Benjamin Mitchell has spent the last few months trying to help low-income people obtain new voter-ID cards. An outreach specialist at the New Pathways Project, a pre-treatment drug program in Center City, Mitchell admits the process has been a bit daunting.
“In my small circle, I have not run into anyone I have been able to get an ID for, yet,” he says. “And I’ve worked with, it has to be at least 50 [people].”
Mitchell joined a coalition of advocates and citizens earlier today to protest the state’s voter-ID law, which will require all those going to the polls vote present a government-issued photo identification, from November 2012 on.
The problem, Mitchell says, is with the various rules for whom those writing the law perhaps did not consider. And the inevitable letdown he’s run into with the people he works with at New Pathways.
“We walk them through the steps, motivate them, come up with the carfare … travel down to PennDOT to get ID.” But when they get there, he says, they’re still being told they need to pay $13.50 for an ID card—money that many people he works with, especially the homeless population, don’t have.
The Pennsylvania DMV’s website claims the “$13.50 fee for acquiring an Identification Card will be waived for individuals completing the Oath/ Affirmation Voter ID form,” but Mitchell hasn’t seen that. He’s also had problems obtaining birth certificates for those with whom he works.
“Eventually, you get tired of jumping through barriers and obstacles, different hoops,” he continues, and then those who need ID stop trying to get one.
In addition to the group of about 50 protesters representing Fight For Philly, Action United, Project H.O.M.E., and individuals, protests were planned and executed around the state, today, in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Part of the Philly rally included a ‘silent march’ from Thomas Paine Plaza to Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office on Broad Street.
When arriving at Corbett’s office, Mitchell spoke to the crowd. He was followed by state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), who has advocated against Voter ID since the beginning.
“This voter-ID law—this voter suppression law … we know what it is—when folks like myself voted no against it, we knew that the fight was not going to end in Harrisburg,” he said. “We knew what is happening now was going to have to happen because this law is one in a series in a very systematic, in a very direct agenda, of this administration.”
Included in that agenda, he noted: Denying women the right to a safe abortion, and kicking children off Medicaid. It is estimated that anywhere between 758,000 and 1.6 million Pennsylvanians don’t have proper ID to vote.