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Spotlight: Lead plaintiff in Pennsylvania voter ID case gets her photo ID

Spotlight: Lead plaintiff in Pennsylvania voter ID case gets her photo ID > Political Action > Political Views > DLU Articles > Democratic Liberal Umbrella

Lead plaintiff in Pennsylvania voter ID case gets her photo ID


>By Jessica Parks| Inquirer Staff Writer |Michael Bryant | Staff|

Pa. drops online initiatives Watch the video below from the Ed Show!

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

Viviette Applewhite

Viviette Applewhite, 93, holds up the temporary photo ID she was able to obtain from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A permanent one will be mailed to her within 15 days.

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.”


Viviette Applewhite, 93, talks about getting a photo ID from PennDot. See the video: www.philly.com/applewhite

[notice]Viviette Applewhite gets photo ID[/notice]

93-year-old Viviette Applewhite, a plaintiff in the ACLU filing to block voter ID law, finally receives her PennDOT photo ID after 30 years of not having one. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )

In review of the Philadelphia Inquirer Facebook page…there appear to be a note of sarcasm!

Sound like a little sarcasm…Let see, how hard would it be if you were 93, ID stolen and you haven’t driven in 30 years? Inasmuch, you would like to vote in the election of 2012! In addition, the opposition party [the Republican Party] is trying to steal PA by placing all these, unnecessary road block in your way in order to stop you and other people like you from performing their civic right to cast your vote! How hard would that be?

Great accomplishment Viviette! Viviette Applewhite, 93, holds up the temporary photo ID she was able to obtain from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A permanent one will be mailed to her within 15 days. See Photo above!

[important]Pennsylvania takes another step to make it harder to vote[/important]

Ed Schultz thinks that PA is ground zero of our Democracy…758 (thousand) people need ID’s! I agree! Now, you can’t apply online…They are trying to steal this election… My friends in PA do you care? …If you do, what are you doing about this shit? We need to overcome this by everyone checking their documents, help those that need ID’s and get out the vote effort! Believe me people! …We will be sorry and even sorrier than in the 2010 election when we allowed 87+ extreme right-wingers to just walk into all branches of government – by not voting! I hope that now you see and feel the effect of that move. If we allow another wave of extremists into our government in this election; all our rights will slip away! We need to do whatever is necessary to win this election just short of illegal act! I’m from the state of PA and I’m pissed off about this…and my friends, and family in PA; you should be too. Republicans are doing everything to steal this election and put us back in chains! That’s right I said it! If you don’t understand the implication of the affront on our rights as Americans [than well I'm sorry]; you need to seriously get involved, mobilizes and help those that need it before this election. This applies to every battleground state because you see; we’re in a Political War of Words and Beliefs! Where is the FEC on this matter? Political note by Gbismarc!

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