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Activists Make Push To Get IDs To Pa. Voters

Sep 16, 2012
Originally published on September 17, 2012 9:50 am

Pennsylvania's politically split Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a lower court ruling that upheld the state's polarizing voter identification law.

The law requires a state-issued photo ID card to vote, and supporters say it will help prevent voter fraud. Voting-rights activists have now shifted strategies from attempting to overturn the law, to instead putting up to a million state-issued photo ID cards in the hands of residents.

State officials recently estimated it is possible nearly 200,000 Philadelphia residents alone don't have proper ID.

Bob Previdi works with the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, which has launched a tightly coordinated information and transportation campaign with the city. He says many people have expressed confusion about the voter ID law's requirements, and it is time for a concerted forward push.

"The law is the law. We've got to get people to understand what it is and make sure they have the appropriate ID," Previdi says. "We've just got to get to work, we've got to make sure our friends, our neighbors [and] our relatives all know about the law."

Pennsylvania officials have said that nobody has been prosecuted for in-person voter fraud in the state.

At a recent rally, Philadelphian Audrey Traynham worked a small crowd outside a Department of Motor Vehicles center, where residents go for state-issued IDs.

"I wasn't recruited by anyone," Traynham says. "I just feel like it's my civic duty to make sure ... everybody has their chance to vote."

Residents are required to bring a Social Security number and two items with their name and address, like a utility bill and pay stub, in order to get a state-issued ID.

Activists are also helping with transportation.

Lessie Hill, who lives in a low-income senior apartment complex in south Philadelphia, says she's helped roughly 80 neighbors because many of them no longer drive.

If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns the voter ID law, residents can vote the way they always have, but voting right activists say that's not a chance they're willing to take.

Copyright 2012 Temple University Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wrti.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Let's stick with politics and Pennsylvania, where the state's Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a lower court's ruling that upheld the state's tough voter ID law. Voting rights activists say that law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people. But recently, those groups have shifted strategy.

They've gone from trying to overturn the law to now working on getting up to a million official IDs into the hands of people without them. From member station WRTI in Philadelphia, Timothy Churchill reports.

TIMOTHY CHURCHILL, BYLINE: The ID law requires a state-issued photo card to vote. Supporters say it will help prevent voter fraud. State officials recently estimated it's possible nearly 200,000 Philadelphia residents alone don't have proper ID. Philadelphia resident Bob Previdi works with the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, which has launched a tightly coordinated information and transportation campaign with the city. Previdi says many people have expressed confusion about the voter ID law's requirements. Now, it's time for a concerted forward push.

BOB PREVIDI: The law is the law. We've got to get people to understand what it is and make sure that they have the appropriate ID. The days and time of complaining about the law, it doesn't do good right now. We just got to get to work. We got to make sure our friends, our neighbors, our relatives all know about the law.

CHURCHILL: Pennsylvania officials have said nobody's ever been prosecuted for in-person voter fraud in the state.

AUDREY TRAYNHAM: We've had folks who've died for this civil right. The right to vote. The right to have a voice. Register to vote.

CHURCHILL: At this recent rally, Philadelphian Audrey Traynham works a small crowd outside a Department of Motor Vehicles center where residents go for state-issued IDs.

TRAYNHAM: I wasn't recruited by anyone. I just feel like it's my civic duty to make sure that my community members, my co-workers, my family members, everybody has their chance to vote.

CHURCHILL: Residents are required to bring a Social Security number and two items with their name and address, like a utility bill and pay stub. Willie Clyde Allen was one of a handful of people hoping to obtain a voter ID. He says he's been turned down in the past for a state-issued non-driver's ID.

WILLIE CLYDE ALLEN: Everything on my birth certificate was right except for Willie. It was Willis, W-I-L-L-I-S, instead of I-E, and that was considered as two different people. That was not acceptable.

CHURCHILL: Activists are also helping with transportation. Lessie Hill lives in a low-income senior apartment complex in the south Philadelphia. She says she's helped roughly 80 neighbors.

LESSIE HILL: Hardly any of them doesn't drive because, you know, they're all different elements and stuff like this: Alzheimer's, in wheelchairs and stuff like this here. Mm-hmm.

CHURCHILL: If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns the voter ID law, residents can vote the way they always have. Voting rights activists say that's not a chance they're willing to take. For NPR News, I'm Timothy Churchill in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.