PHILADELPHIA — A plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Pennsylvania's tough new voter identification law has received the state-issued photo ID card necessary to vote, despite saying she'd been rejected for years because she lacked appropriate documentation to receive the card.
Viviette Applewhite, who recalled marching for voting rights in 1960 with Martin Luther King Jr., was issued the temporary card on Thursday, the same day lawyers for her and others opposing the law appealed a judge's refusal to halt the law from taking effect in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Applewhite, 93, had trouble meeting the state's documentation requirements to get a photo ID. For one thing, she did not have a Social Security card after it was stolen with her purse some years ago, she has said. Plus, she was adopted early in life, making the name on her birth certificate different from that on her other paperwork, and she did not have a record of the adoption.
Applewhite received her identification card after riding two public-transit buses to a Department of Transportation licensing office and presenting a clerk with her Medicare card from the 1990s, a state document listing her name and Social Security number in her own handwriting, and proof of her Philadelphia address, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
None of the documents, however, linked her birth certificate name of Viviette Virene Brooks to Viviette Applewhite.
PennDOT's licensing bureau director Janet Dolan said Friday that clerks are able to make exceptions to the document requirements and work with applicants.
For instance, she said, PennDOT clerks are able to confirm somebody's Social Security number with the Social Security Administration if they're able to somehow show that the number belongs to them. But Dolan could not explain why Applewhite had been rejected before, saying she did not know what kind of documentation the woman had brought with her previously.
Still, PennDot's official guidelines say a Social Security card is a must to get a photo ID, and a PennDot employee answering the agency's voter ID hotline Thursday said the card is required.
Applewhite's lawyers said she has been attempting to obtain a PennDOT-issued ID card for years.
"You just have to keep trying," Applewhite said. "Don't give up."
Penda Hair, a co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, a civil liberties group providing some of the lawyers for the plaintiffs challenging the voter ID law, was dubious of PennDOT's decision to grant the identification card. But the Inquirer reported that the clerk who issued the card did not appear to notice that Applewhite was a central figure in the legal challenge.
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com