Tom Mihalek / REUTERS
Voting-rights groups are suing to block Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law, and a ruling in the case is expected before Tuesday.
The state’s Republican leadership argues that the law should stand, since getting a state-issued ID isn’t all that difficult. But it’s hard to take that argument seriously after reading testimony given last week by one 84-year-old Pennsylvanian, Nadine Marsh, about the nightmare of incompetent bureaucracy that she was put through as she tried to get one.
And ask yourself: How many other Pennsylvania voters, less determined than Marsh, will end up getting discouraged and giving up?.
Here's Marsh's testimony:
I was born on March 8th, 1928, in Sewickley, which is in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. I have no photo ID that will allow me to vote on November 6. I have never driven or had a PennDOT photo ID, so I needed a raised, sealed birth certificate, Social Security card and two proofs of residence to get a nondriver PennDOT ID in order to vote. I have been unable to obtain a PennDOT ID because I do not have a birth certificate. And the Department of Health notified me in May by a document dated May 16th, 2012, that they have no record of my birth. Exhibit 12, Page 3, from the first trial. I want to vote, so I have continued to try to get an ID that will allow me to do so in November.
In August, I learned that the Commonwealth would be issuing a new form of ID known as the Department of State, DOS, voter ID and that I could get it without a birth certificate. My granddaughter, Suzanne Smith, knows how to use the Internet, and she researched what documents I needed to get the DOS ID.
Based on her research, she learned that I would need to present two acceptable proofs of residency. Since I live with my daughter, Barb Smith, I do not get any bills that show my address. Neither Suzanne nor I could tell if I had the necessary documents to get a DOS ID. So on August 25th, Suzanne sent an email to the Department of State help line. And we have the Internet address for that. A copy of the August 25 email is attached as Exhibit 1. And I'm just going to characterize here Exhibit 1. It's an email to the help desk where she says that the Web site says that you are asked to present two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill, along with their date of birth and Social Security number. And the question is being asked: What do you mean by "such as"? What is a full list of the kinds of proof of residence documents that we can present? I don't know what "such as" is. That's too vague. And then our DMV is over 20 miles from home, and making numerous trips due to lack of clarity about acceptable proof is burdensome, to say the least. So this is dated August 25. Suzanne stated in the email that she could not find a complete list of acceptable proofs of residency. The closest thing she found was the following: When requesting these IDs, voters will need to affirm that they do not possess any other approved identification for voting purposes. They will be asked to provide two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill, along with their date of birth and Social Security number if the customer has an assigned number. PennDOT will validate the voter registration status with the Department of State while the voter is in the PennDOT office. Upon confirmation of this information, the voter will be issued a voter card before leaving the PennDOT facility. She then asked for a, quote, full list of acceptable types of proof of residency, because the -- "such as" in the above-referenced paragraph was "too vague."
After three days, Suzanne still had not received a reply from DOS. On August 28th, Suzanne sent a second email asking DOS to respond and adding a question about whether I would have to take two trips to DMV. A copy of the August 28th email is attached as Exhibit 2. Two more days passed, and Suzanne still had not gotten a response from DOS. On August 30th, Suzanne sent a third email, forwarding her earlier ones asking for a response. A copy of the August 30 email is attached as Exhibit 3. Later that day on August 30, Suzanne received a response saying that I can fulfill the requirements if I bring a, quote, verification of residence affirmation, end quote, form which was attached, filled out by someone who can say where I live, along with a bank statement. A copy of the August 30 DOS response is attached as Exhibit 4.
I got very sick right after Suzanne received the response, and I was unable to leave the house for a couple of weeks. I felt better -- I'm sorry. I felt better by the weekend of September 15th, so I decided it was time to try again to get my ID. The closest licensing bureau is in Rochester, which is more than 20 miles away from my home and takes about 40 minutes to drive there. See Exhibit 5, MapQuest printout of directions. Because such a trip is difficult for me, we wanted to be sure we went to the bureau on a day that I could get my ID. My granddaughter searched the PennDOT Web site and found that the Rochester office is opened from 8:15 to 4:30 on Mondays. See Exhibit 6, which is a Web site printout of East Rochester PennDOT driver license center. Based on the information, on Monday, September 17th, my daughter Barb, who had a day off from work, drove me the 40 minutes to the East Rochester licensing center. I had all the papers I thought I would need to get the ID. Even though the PennDOT office was open, they told me that the licensing desk is not open on Mondays, so I was unable to obtain a DOS ID. We made the 40-minute drive home without getting an ID.
Since Barb was again off from work the next day, Tuesday, September 20th, she and I made a second trip, yet again driving the 40 minutes to the Rochester DMV. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, Barb and I worked with a PennDOT clerk, who did not seem to understand about the DOS ID and who had to ask her supervisor many questions. Even though I had the two proof of residency forms the DOS help desk had told Suzanne I needed in their August 30 email, the completed verification of residence affirmation form and my bank statement with the home address on it, PennDOT refused to issue me a DOS ID.
I was told that PennDOT needed to, quote, process the application and that I should go home and "Harrisburg" would notify me when I could come back to get my DOS ID. I was not given a receipt or any other document verifying my application. In addition to the 20-minute wait, I spent an hour working with this lady, and I still did not get a voter ID. The clerk could not tell me what document would be getting in the mail from Harrisburg or when I would receive it. When I expressed concern about how long it would take, the clerk alerted me to the fact that I needed to return with the document before October 9, which she said was the deadline to get voter ID. The drive home took another 40 minutes.
As of this date, September 23, I still have not heard anything from either PennDOT or DOS about getting my ID. As of this date, I have no ID to vote, despite taking two trips to a DMV, and have no idea how or if I will be able to get an ID to vote in November.
Similarly hellish stories can be found here (pdf).