Witnesses recall hurdles to get Pennsylvania voter ID
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania |
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A dozen witnesses testified on Thursday about the hours-long waits, multiple trips and misinformation they experienced in getting the voter ID cards required under a Pennsylvania law that a judge will soon decide whether to block.
On the second day of hearings called by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, a parade of witnesses, including one in a wheelchair and another who walks with a cane, spoke about the hurdles they faced to get the cards before the November 6 presidential election.
Simpson set a deadline of Friday for lawyers to submit documents, including their suggestions on what kind of injunction to issue should he find voters have less than "liberal access" to the IDs required under the battleground state's new law.
Simpson is expected to rule ahead of the October 2 deadline set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court when it ordered him to reconsider the law he upheld in August.
National attention has been focused on the court fight over the law that was passed by the Republican-led legislature in March without a single Democratic vote. It requires voters to show a state driver's license, government employee ID or a state non-driver ID card.
Supporters say the law is aimed at ensuring that only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics say it is designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls.
The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged that there has never been a single case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony.
In court on Thursday, Doris Clark, 68, who uses a cane and doesn't drive, testified about her confusing and frustrating quest for ID. She recalled hours-long waits and government mistakes that forced her to make three trips to PennDOT, the state agency that issues the IDs, and two trips to the U.S. Social Security Administration, one source of the necessary documents to secure the ID.
On her third visit a PennDOT worker turned her down because her maiden name is on her birth certificate but her married name is on her Social Security documents.
"I'm handicapped. I've done all that I can do and I can't vote," she testified about her reaction to the rejection.
Eventually, she got her card.
Other voters, including one in a wheelchair, said they too overcame enormous challenges to get their voter ID cards.
Alicia Hickok, an attorney representing the commonwealth, said in her closing argument that she understands people are frustrated with the new voter ID system, but that is not reason to do away with it.
"Frustration is part of everyday life," she said.
"This is not about people who can't get IDs, this is about people who are resentful about having to get IDs," she said.
Frustration and resentment was evident on Thursday across the state at a Philadelphia PennDOT office that was packed with about 200 people seeking voter ID cards, most of them African American.
"It's discriminatory," said Antwoine McCoy, 34, who is on disability and was running out of patience after waiting more than an hour. "I have to get a new ID or they won't let me vote."
Raquel McCall, 43, stopped by to get ID on a break from her college financial counseling job but, seeing the slow progress inside the crowded office, turned around after 15 minutes and left empty-handed.
"I never saw anything like it," she said, noting she'd likely have to try again at another time.
(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Vicki Allen and M.D. Golan)
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