See? No problem at all

david52_gwAugust 17, 2012

The day after a judge upheld Pennsylvania's new voter identification law, the lead plaintiff in the suit seeking to block the law went to a PennDot office and was issued the photo ID card she needs to vote.

Nothing has changed since Viviette Applewhite, 93, testified in July. The law stands. She still doesn't have a driver's license or Social Security card. The name on her birth certificate is still different from the name on her other documents - all of which, under the law, should have barred her from getting her photo ID.

But at precisely 1:16 p.m. Thursday, she got it anyway.

"You just have to keep trying," said Applewhite, who uses an electric wheelchair. "Don't give up."

State officials called it an unplanned exercise in what they've been saying for weeks: Clerks behind counters at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation centers can take age and other factors into consideration when granting exceptions to the list of documents the law requires, licensing bureau director Janet Dolan said.

"PennDot has said all along that they would work with folks on a case-by-case basis," said Ron Ruman, a Department of State spokesman.

Call it the Applewhite rule.

Word of her success threw her lawyers into something of a tizzy. A leader of a civil liberties group challenging the law promptly cast doubt on the state's motives.

"PennDot was flexible providing the ID without Mrs. Applewhite having the documents required by law. We wonder if that would be the case for someone who wasn't a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit and the subject of a lot of attention in the press," said Penda Hair, codirector of the Advancement Project.

Even so, an Inquirer reporter who accompanied Applewhite to the PennDot center on Cheltenham Avenue in the city's West Oak Lane section saw no sign that the clerk recognized her or realized she was a major figure in the battle over the law.

Applewhite - who rode two SEPTA buses to get to the center - showed the clerk a Medicare card from the 1990s, its edges frayed from years of being pulled out of her pocketbook. It listed her Social Security number, but only the last seven digits were visible. A state Department of Public Welfare document showed her name, signature, and Social Security number - but all in her own handwriting. Other documents showed her street address in the city's Germantown section. She had no documents verifying that the Viviette Virene Brooks listed on her birth certificate was the same person as the Viviette Applewhite applying for an ID.

Her lawyers later issued a statement including a comment from Witold Walczak, legal director of the state ACLU: "We are delighted for Ms. Applewhite. She has been trying to obtain PennDot ID for years and now she will be able to vote in November after all." But he cautioned that there are "thousands of Ms. Applewhites out there who still don't have ID. It would be nice if PennDot relaxed the rules for all of them."

For her part, Applewhite was thrilled. She returned to her apartment after little more than an hour at the PennDot office and proudly showed off her new ID. "I got it, Miss Cunningham," she told a neighbor. "I didn't fight for nothing. I fought and got my rights."

Applewhite had vowed to keep fighting as the ACLU prepared to appeal Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr.'s ruling. The lawyers for her and the other plaintiffs say it's unclear now whether she will remain part of the suit - which claims the law would bar her from exercising the voting rights she's enjoyed for more than half a century.

Knowing she will be able to vote on Nov. 6 is a great comfort to her, she said. "I'll be able to close my eyes and go to sleep at night, not worry about this mess," she said.

Applewhite told of trying for years to get new ID, ever since her pocketbook was stolen along with her Social Security card and other documents.

PennDot's official guidelines say a Social Security card is required in order to obtain a nondriver photo ID. A PennDot employee answering the agency's voter ID hotline Thursday said the card was a must.

But according to Dolan, who heads the licensing bureau, eligible voters who don't have one can try to persuade a clerk with a combination of other items.

"We want people to come with appropriate documentation the first time," Dolan said. "That's why we've been telling everyone all along" what items to bring.

That message has caused some confusion, even among people who have studied the paperwork. Sara Mullen, one of Applewhite's lawyers, thought the efforts would be futile without a Social Security card. "I keep telling her, 'Why do you keep going down there?' " But Applewhite persisted.

All the way home on the bus Thursday, she kept her pocketbook open on her lap, glancing down over and over again to smile at the ID card. A fellow rider commented on how happy she looked.

"I really am," Applewhite replied. "Happy as a clam." end quote

So, um, whats the point of all those laws again? If you don't have the documentation, but if you walk in with a reporter they give you an id anyway? And it only took her "years".

Here is a link that might be useful: link

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So it's up to the individual clerk. That's a bit disturbing.

If the clerk doesn't like your political party - they can refuse to issue an ID card?

And why hasn't she been able to get a replacement SS Card - probably because she doesn't have enough ID??

It's a vicious circle, isn't it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:54AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

"Clerks behind counters at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation centers can take age and other factors into consideration when granting exceptions to the list of documents the law requires"

"other factors" is what worries me. So... sounds like someone random who happens to be working a job behind a counter gets to decide who can and can't vote in PA.... nice.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:55AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Gosh, can't please you no matter what. Mrs. Applegate got her ID. Why aren't you glad the system worked for her? Just about every state has a list of documentation that can be used in place of a birth certificate. If you know the number you don't need to present the card itself. The regularization of Identification is a good thing for everyone especially in the computer age.

DH has lost my SS card countless times. His has gone through the washer and dryer more than once. It drives me crazy. Sometimes I have gone for as long as 6 years before I asked for a replacement card. In every case, no matter what the circumstances of the loss, after a half dozen questions to verify the info, I received a replacement in the mail within 10 days.

I have never had my purse stolen so I haven't had to deal with that mess but if you have ever read the card and the information attached to it, you are not supposed to carry it with you. It is supposed to be kept in a secure place. It is not to be used as ID. It drives me crazy when clerks ask for the card or the number. The only possible exception for giving it to anyone but an employer would be a bank. Any transaction short of $10,000.00 would not require it in any case. With all the identity theft going on, I actually wish they would tighten up the rules or make it an actual (photo)ID but I suspect the IRS would have a hissy.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 5:15PM
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A system didn't work the arbitrary whim of the clerk worked the same way it did when I needed an ID after 911.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 5:27PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

I lost my SS card 35 years ago and have an unacceptable birth certificate issued by the County I was born into but there no longer exists a copy or the original Birth certificate issued by the hospital or the town clerk. When it came time to sign up for SS and Medicare, I showed my drivers' license and brought along some tax documents. That was enough but wouldn't help me much in re-registring for voting rolls. Thank God I live in California.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 6:50PM
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Mrs. Applegate got her ID. Why aren't you glad the system worked for her?

And it only took years, and a reporter to come with her.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:31PM
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kingturtle(Zone 7 GA)

My mom, a registered Republican, has no birth certificate or drivers license (she's 94) and will not be able to vote in Georgia. She can't walk, can't hear well, has a weak voice, and is too weak to wait in line for hours even in a wheelchair. I offered to help her get an absentee ballot (which is of course much easier to get) so she could mail in her vote but she decided that she doesn't really like any of the choices and the GOP doesn't seem all that interested in her vote anyway.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:52PM
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"My mom, a registered Republican, has no birth certificate or drivers license (she's 94) and will not be able to vote in Georgia. She can't walk, can't hear well, has a weak voice, and is too weak to wait in line for hours even in a wheelchair."

I have this same issue, except my mother is a year younger than yours. Wheelchair bound, almost no vision, bad hearing, and must use oxygen due to congestive heart failure. Preparing for the Normandy Invasion was a cakewalk compared to the logistics of steering someone like this through a government bureaucracy.

She's not party affiliated, though. She will not be voting this year if she needs to produce a photo ID.

An absentee ballot might be a workaround, but she is so disaffected by this mentality that she has decided it's not worth the effort. She is long past that point in life where she feels compelled to jump through manufactured hoops, regardless of which party manufactures them.

So, I understand and agree. With a passion.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 8:40PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

sleeplessinftwayne, it appears you do not understand the info has been the birth certificate was the ONLY documentation they were accepting to issue the photo ID. No we cannot be happy when there are 750,000 people that do not have oter ID. We should jump for joy because one got her ID because the press if following her.

People should try to think past their situation and think of others. I look at how would I feel if it was my family member that wanted to vote and this happened to her.

I cannot discuss this without getting upset because I have been taking people like this lady around trying to get their ID.

I am a die hard liberal. I said before the one woman that I put a lot of my gas and time in I am pretty sure she is not going to vote Democrat. She has said some things, not appropriate racist comments about the President. She wants to vote and she should have that opportunity. She is old grouch but she still deserves the opportunity to cast her vote.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 8:40PM
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I had a Birth certificate they wanted a certified one how to get a certified one you need an ID LOL. The clerk accepted a cancelled passport which was not valid ID. I was told it was not a valid ID but they took it anyway with a shrug. That clerk could have been fired for that. I got an ID because of a whim an eff it attitude of a clerk 11 years ago after ferrying back & forth between lines in lower Manhattan.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:08PM
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PA used to be a great state to live in till the corrupt Corbett administration got in. I'm embarrassed to say I live here. These Teabaggers in charge are so smug. Mike Turzai,house Republican leader, said..we passed photo ID so PA is a Romney victory. These crooks can't win without deception. This old lady is magnified by 100,000's of others. It's a monumental problem and the ACLU better get it overturned, or at least postponed till after the election to give people the opportunity to register.

This is so reminiscent of Florida in 2000 . It make me sick to my stomach. On our local news they had a 97 year old with her son who looked close to 80 himself. He had to drive her 20 miles because her drivers license and birth certificate had different names. She went by Jean and was born as Dorothy Jean. And she is a Democrat and said they would not defeat her.

Let's hear it from you Righties. How fair is this? And not ONE case of voter fraud was uncovered. It's purely a despicable teabagger trick.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 1:59AM
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Strictly anecdotal, but I am sloppy with ID. Washed my SS card shortly after I got it in the 60's. Never replaced it, but I had the number memorized. I still remember my Navy service number from '68. I've been stopped several times at license checks when my wallet was at home; told the officer my number and left with nothing but a reminder to carry my license.
I've been hired at numerous jobs and never had to provide ID. Went to Jamaica in the mid-80's with a voter registration card I picked up that morning at the courthouse for ID. I vote every time I have an interest in the outcome but rarely show ID. They ask for name and address.
It makes me wonder why others have to jump through hoops and up to now I've never been hassled.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 3:03PM
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    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 5:24PM
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