Opponents of Pennsylvania's voter ID law seemed to have gained a powerful new ally on Tuesday: CNBC's Jim Cramer.
The indefatigable stock market advice program host tweeted, "I have a problem. My dad, a vet, won't be allowed to vote in Pa. because he does not drive, he is elderly, and can't prove his citizenship."
But within hours, Cramer had the problem solved and said he never meant for the law to be a "political issue."
"PennDot read my Tweet and came directly to the rescue of Pop and did so in a terrific way so he can vote.. Thank you Penndot!" he wrote on Twitter. Cramer declined The Huffington Post's request for an interview though a representative.
But others without an ID or such stature may find the road to the voting booth more difficult. Community organizations, civil rights groups and individuals around the state have described a situation that may imperil the ability of voters to participate in the Nov. 6 election unless the state's Supreme Court, which begins hearings on the new voter ID law Thursday, strikes it down.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) says that the agency is prepared to issue IDs to people who need them, but that they have not been overwhelmed by demand. Nevertheless, some 759,000 voters may lack proper government-issued ID, according to state figures.
“We have taken people to the DMV and they have stood in line for three, three-and-a-half hours,” said Rev. Richard Freeman, pastor of the Resurrection Baptist Church in Braddock, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh. “We have had people in line when DMV staff came out and said, ‘Sorry we’re closing for the day. Come back tomorrow.'"
Freeman is also the president of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, a coalition of 48 churches. Over the last four months, the group and others have helped transport people to get the ID needed to vote. But many of the people who do not have state-issued ID are those who work hourly wage jobs where it is difficult to “disappear for three hours," he said.
PennDot is issuing non-license state IDs, as usual, at a cost of $13. But after voting rights groups pointed out that this cost and supporting document costs can be prohibitive, the state and PennDot also agreed to issue what are known as "IDs of last resort." These IDs are technically free of charge, but in many cases also require people to first obtain various supporting documents.
“Even with the free option it is almost as if you have got to know to how speak and use a special coded language,” Freeman said. “If you do not request it just the right way, we have seen DMV staff in some offices say 'okay, that will be $13.'”
Individuals who have never been issued a state identification or driver’s license must provide their birth certificate, marriage license or other documents that they may not have on hand. The cost of obtaining a birth certificate in Pennsylvania can vary, but generally costs about $25, Freeman said.
“As a person who is financially secure, it is true that when you start talking those numbers, $25 is not going to make me flinch, but for persons making $7.25 an hour, that’s tantamount to [nearly] four hours of work. Think about that for a moment.”
PennDOT said issuing the new IDs -- more than 7,500 thus far -- has been running smoothly. "It hasn't had a real impact on day-to-day operations," spokeswoman Jan McKnight said, adding that less than one percent of business involves voter IDs, "except in Philadelphia," where the number is two percent.
Doris Clark, a 68-year-old retired factory worker who lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, said she found the process of getting an ID difficult. A life of hard work has left her with two hip and two knee replacements -- and a rich sense of humor. The latter came in handy in August when Clark decided to replace her lost photo ID and social security card after hearing about the new voter ID law.
First, Clark went to the Social Security Administration, where she spent $13 to file paperwork for a replacement card. When she went to a PennDOT office several weeks later, workers told her the Social Security card in progress paperwork she had was too old and she would instead need to provide an actual card and birth certificate. But Clark lost her birth certificate, marriage license and most of her other belongings in a 1977 fire. So, she had to pay almost $75 to replace those documents, go back and forth between Social Security, a vital records office, and visit PennDOT twice more. As a widow, she ran into particular difficulty because the last names on her social security card and birth certificate did not match.
“Finally that last time when I was there and there was a line of people out the door and they told me that I wasn’t going to be able to get an ID I just said, loudly, 'Fine, I guess I’m not gonna’ to vote,'” she said. “That’s when some people snapped to attention.” An employee then issued her one of the state’s free IDs for voting.
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law passed in March after the Republicans took over the governor's house and the state legislature. At the time, proponents argued that it would ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
The law requires voters to show a Pennsylvania driver’s license, passport, military ID, government ID, student or licensed care center photo ID with an expiration date.
The ACLU, along with the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Arnold & Porter LLP filed suit over the law. In a stipulation agreement, the state admitted that there was no credible evidence of voter fraud and that it wasn't likely before the 2012 elections.
The law could have implications for the 2012 presidential race. Pennsylvania GOP House leader Mike Turzai was quoted in June saying the voter ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” But Romney and his allies have stopped advertising in the state, which has voted for a Democrat for president in every election since 1988.
For Clark, a block captain who gets voters to the polls every election year, the law is an affront to anyone who believes in the importance of democracy.
“Listen, I may not have much, but I have a PhD in common sense,” she said. “And I’m determined, so I was going to get my ID. But what about the person who don’t have the time, doesn’t have the money or can’t take the run-around? What about them?”
Related on HuffPost:
You're an average voter in Pennsylvania. The night before Election Day, your wallet goes missing, leaving you without immediate access to any of the identification you'll need to vote at your local precinct the following morning. This would be a problem under <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#PA" target="_hplink">Pennsylvania's proposed photo ID law</a>, since <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/pennsylvania-voter-id-ruling_n_1919187.html" target="_hplink">blocked by a state judge</a>. While many people in this situation may have backup forms of identification, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/05/pennsylvania-voter-id-law_n_1652469.html" target="_hplink">studies have shown</a> that a significant percentage of would-be voters don't. The state's safeguard against the immediate disenfranchisement of people in this situation would be a provisional ballot cast on the day of the election. But this doesn't mean your vote counts, yet. Anyone who casts a provisional ballot is required to "appear in person at the county board of elections" within six days of the vote to provide proof that their ballot was valid. If you're able to take time away from your job to do this, the process still requires a would-be voter to either show up with valid ID -- a replacement driver's license <a href="http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/fees/index.shtml" target="_hplink">would cost $36</a> and considerable time -- or to sign an affirmation that you are indigent and not able to afford the fees associated with acquiring a photo ID. Even if you make a rapid and somewhat expensive turnaround to get a replacement ID -- or alternatively swear under oath that you are too poor to pay for such a document -- there is no guarantee that your vote will end up counting. Many elections are largely decided before provisional voters have a chance to verify their validity, which could serve to discouraging them from following up with election officials or leave them effectively disenfranchised. In 2008, <a href="http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey EAVS Report.pdf" target="_hplink">only 61.8 percent</a> of all provisional ballots cast were fully counted. If strict photo ID measures were implemented, however, the number of provisional ballots submitted would likely increase, as would the requirements for voters hoping to make them count. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>
Eleven percent of eligible voters say they lack current government-issued photo IDs, a <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf" target="_hplink">survey</a> on the potential impact of voter ID laws found. You live in Georgia and you're one of them. Like 66,515 other Georgians, according to a <a href="http://brennan.3cdn.net/773c569439b50452e0_kzm6bo5l6.pdf" target="_hplink">recent study</a> from the Brennan Center for Justice, you also lack vehicle access and live more than 10 miles from an office that issues state ID. As a registered voter who's skipped the past few elections, you decide you'll vote this year. But you spend your life working multiple jobs to provide for your family, not tuned in to a news cycle that may have told you about a voter ID law that changed the requirements. If you were aware of the measure, you'd know that you have to get yourself to a state office during business hours to procure a photo ID in order to vote. According to the Brennan Center, these facilities are often only open part time, especially in areas with the highest concentration of people of color and in poverty. While the state does offer a free photo ID initiative, the Brennan Center points out that many of the offices provide confusing or inaccurate information about what Georgians need to do to get one. This may be a tough task as you juggle a strenuous work schedule with other commitments -- and that's assuming you're aware of the requirement. But you're not, so you head to your voting precinct on election day with no access to an acceptable form of identification and vote with a provisional ballot. To <a href="http://sos.georgia.gov/gaphotoid/3679BasicVotingInfo_printer final.pdf" target="_hplink">verify that ballot</a>, you'll have two days to present appropriate photo ID at your county registrar's office, which at this point wouldn't be doable. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>
As an elderly Tennessee resident, you've made a decades-long Election Day habit of traveling to your local polling place and exercising your franchise. It's an important day for you, and it gives you the rare opportunity to leave your house, where you live alone. For a number of years, you've had an identification card that allows you to vote. But thanks to the state's strict new voter ID law, that document will no longer be sufficient. Reports <a href="http://www.wbir.com/news/article/185824/2/Tennessee-voter-ID-law-awaits-effect-on-seniors" target="_hplink">found</a> that 230,000 Tennesseans older than 60 possess driver's licenses that don't have photos on them. Such ID will not be accepted at polling places in November. While the state has agreed to issue photo IDs free to anyone who asks, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/tennessee-voter-id-law-program_n_1669323.html" target="_hplink">recent study</a> found that only a tiny percentage of potential targets have applied. Perhaps that's because people like you weren't aware of exactly how the change was going to affect them. Maybe you weren't even aware of the change. Poll workers tell you that you can cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. You'll <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#tn" target="_hplink">have until</a> "the close of business on the second business day after the election" to find an applicable piece of identification -- which you don't have -- and present it to a designated elections official. Whether it's your lack of an acceptable form of identification, the difficulty in finding transportation back to the elections official, or the prospect of having to go through the drain of the entire process again, you're discouraged, and give up. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>
You're a resident of Kansas in your early 60s, fully expecting to vote in November. Your driver's license is your primary form of ID, but you rarely carry it anymore. You don't drive and you haven't traveled abroad in years, leaving your passport expired or lost. In the months before the election, you changed addresses, and for some reason never received a notification from the state reminding you that your license had expired. On the day of the election, you head to your polling place, unaware that you're about to be told your license is expired and therefore invalid according to the state's new voter ID law (Kansans over the age of 65 can use expired IDs, but you're not there yet). You're given a provisional ballot and informed that <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#Kansas" target="_hplink">you must</a> now "provide a valid form of identification to the county election officer in person or provide a copy by mail or electronic means before the meeting of the county board of canvassers." While Kansas says it has <a href="http://www.wycokck.org/Internet2010ElectionBanner.aspx?menu_id=1092&banner=27765&id=26946" target="_hplink">historically counted</a> around 70 percent of its provisional ballots, this year provides a different landscape. The next steps can be somewhat difficult, and with the enacting of the state's photo ID law, the use of such ballots will undoubtedly become more commonplace. Faced with disenfranchisement, you must now race against the clock to have your vote included. With no other acceptable forms of ID available, you go about the process of renewing your license. <a href="http://www.ksrevenue.org/renewingdl.html" target="_hplink">According to the state</a>, this requires you to make your way to a state office, where you'll have to provide a number of identifying documents and pay the fee. By the time you can find someone to chauffeur you through this process -- public transportation is complex and unreliable where you live, <a href="http://www.kansas.com/2012/07/24/2418365/voter-id-law-burdens-wichita.html" target="_hplink">even if you're in an urban center</a> -- most of the major election results have been announced on the news. You decide the undertaking isn't worth the time. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>
You're a first-time voter in Indiana who <a href="https://forms.in.gov/Download.aspx?id=9341" target="_hplink">registered to vote</a> at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles using your Social Security number, a process that also <a href="http://www.in.gov/bmv/2339.htm" target="_hplink">required you</a> to get a state identification card, which you placed in your wallet. As a recent high school graduate who commutes with other workers to your full time job on a farm, you rarely need to present identification, so you didn't even bother to get a new ID card when it went missing from your locker a few weeks before the election. You risk potential firing when you travel to your polling place with other members of your community on voting day, but you're intent on participating in your first election. Without valid photo ID, however, you don't get to pull the lever. Under Indiana's new photo ID law, you're instead required to fill out a provisional ballot. But you're told you'll still need to jump through additional hoops that could prove too demanding. Now tasked with making visits during business hours to both the Indiana BMV to <a href="http://www.dmv.com/in/indiana/drivers-license-replacement" target="_hplink">get a replacement ID</a>, and then to the <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#in" target="_hplink">county elections board</a> to verify your ballot, you decide keeping your job is more important than voting. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>
Pennsylvania, Part II
Viviette Applewhite was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's new voter ID measure. She's a 93-year-old great-great grandmother who has voted regularly for decades. She claimed she didn't have access to any of the documents she'd need to vote. With no driver's license and no birth certificate, needed to get a photo ID, Applewhite said she'd be disenfranchised by the law. And she wasn't the only one. A <a href="http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/applewhiteetalvcommonwealt/voteridclients.htm" target="_hplink">number of other plantiffs in the ACLU case</a> against Pennsylvania's photo ID law claimed they had been unsuccessful in attempts to get copies of their birth certificates and other papers due to complexities in the state's record-keeping. Most claimed the measure would take away their vote. The law has since been blocked for this election cycle.
Georgia, Part II
You're a longtime resident of Georgia, but you've just recently returned home from a six-month out-of-town assignment from your job. You get into town on the Monday before Election Day. Most of your possessions are still being shipped from halfway across the country. Old friends invite you to a bar to catch up, but in the process of removing your driver's license from your wallet to present to a bouncer, it cracks in half, leaving it officially invalidated. Without a valid license, you won't be able to cast a ballot the next day. You'd renew it and choke down the $20 or more fee <a href="http://www.dmv.org/ga-georgia/id-cards.php#Replacing-an-ID-Card-" target="_hplink">for the replacement</a>, but the documents you need to present are in the moving truck. An election official informs you that you can fill out a provision ballot on Election Day. To <a href="http://sos.georgia.gov/gaphotoid/3679BasicVotingInfo_printer final.pdf" target="_hplink">verify that ballot</a>, you'll have two days afterward to present appropriate photo ID at your county registrar's office. Either you're telling the moving company to drive twice the speed limit for the next 48 hours straight, or you're accepting your disenfranchisement. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>