Jean Foreman, 80, had to wait four hours at the Pittsburgh PennDOT to get her voter ID last Tuesday. Foreman was denied a Pennsylvania state-issued ID on the first try. The problem was, Foreman did not have a birth certificate (although she had tried several times to obtain one without any success). When she was born, the hospital did not record the births of African American children. Volunteer attorneys with the United Steelworkers (USW) at the My Vote, My Right event outside the PennDOT, were able to help Foreman come up with additional printouts of bills, voter registration paperwork and an affidavit from a person who swore Foreman lived at her residence. During the four-hour process hunting down paperwork, Foreman had to take a break to sip orange juice because as a diabetic, her blood sugar was getting low and she was feeling weak.
"It is a struggle to be alive 80 years and have to deal with this after 30 years of voting," says Foreman.
Nancy Spencer, assistant general counsel at USW in Pittsburgh, says the whole ordeal was a long day for an elderly lady.
Instead of stopping voter fraud, the law affects people like Ms. Foreman, who has been voting for the past 30 years...it [the voter ID law] almost prevented her from being able to cast her vote.
Thirty-four states introduced voter ID requirements that would effectively disenfranchise more than 21 million eligible voters who don’t have the required IDs—mostly people of color, low-income voters, students, seniors and people with disabilities.
Pennsylvania voters who need IDs—thanks to a new state law that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents, including civic-minded seniors— were assisted by representatives from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), volunteer attorneys from USW, along with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and various community groups last week in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker attended these events at the PennDOTs in both cities. Because of the new law, Pennsylvania state officials say that more than 785,000 voters don’t have a state-issued photo identification.
Philadelphia resident Earl Patrick, 75, just got his ID last Wednesday. He was former Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America (CWA) member who worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than two decades and served in the Air Force as a commander. Because Patrick doesn't drive, he didn't have an ID. The first time Patrick attempted to get his ID, he was told his Social Security card and Air Force ID were not sufficient. He had to return with two utility bills. The process took an additional three hours.
"If I wasn't retired, I would have had to take the entire day off from work," says Patrick.
I hope they rule it [the law] unconstitional....it makes me think of the poll tax.
Nolan Harrison, former NFLPA member and defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, attended the Pittsburgh Voter ID event last Tuesday. In a blog post for AARP, "On A Rainy Day In Steeler Country Volunteers Were Asked “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?", Nolan writes:
There were many stories that played out during the day. One was of a 74-year-old woman who had learned about the new voter ID restrictions from her pastor at her church. She said that her pastor told everyone in his congregation to go down to the event to learn if they had the proper credentials so they could cast their vote, as many have in previous elections, without incident....
At the end of the day, making sure that everyone who came out to the event got the proper education, and access to the right resources to get their Voter ID, so that they can cast their vote is the most important thing regardless of what side of the fence you stand on. On that rainy day in Pittsburgh volunteers answered the age old question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” with a collective “YES WE ARE!”
Make sure all your friends and family are ready to vote this November. Send them to www.aflcio.org/register.
If you’re not sure if you're registered, go ahead and register now. Visit www.aflcio.org/register to double check.
Tuesday, Sept. 25, is National Voter Registration Day. Volunteers, celebrities and organizations from all over the country will "hit the streets" for National Voter Registration Day. This single day of coordinated ﬁeld, technology and media efforts will create awareness of voter registration opportunities. Want to get involved? Find a National Voter Registration Day event near you.
The AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right website offers hands-on information on voter registration, voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote on Election Day. Find out what you need to know to make sure your vote counts this year. Get information on voter registration, your voting rights by state and more at the AFL-CIO’s MyVoteMyRight.org.
Have questions about your voting rights? Call 866-Our-Vote (866-687-8683).