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Barbara J. Easterling Headshot

Don't Take the Vote Away From Seniors

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I don't know Ruthelle Frank. But I do know that what is happening to her is enough to make my blood boil. Along with many other seniors, Ruthelle may lose the right to vote because she lacks a government-issued photo ID card.

Over the past year, GOP-controlled state houses have been passing what are known as Voter ID laws. Proponents say it is to cut down on voter fraud. Opponents say fraud of this nature is quite rare and that the true intent is to keep certain voters at home. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, nationally about 18 percent of seniors and 25 percent of African-Americans do not have photo identification.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ruthelle, of remote Brokaw WI (pop. 107), does not have a driver's license, and lacks a birth certificate needed to get a state identification card. She has a Social Security card, a Medicare card, and a baptism certificate. Even if she were to pay $20 to get a birth certificate, her maiden name was misspelled by the attending physician at her home birth. To rectify this, she would need to petition the court and pay a $200 fee. Ruthelle, an elected member of her Village Board since 1996, recently became a plaintiff in a law suit to block the new law, which was authored by Governor Scott Walker.

Voting laws vary by state, so please check with your state or local elections office for more details. Election laws and procedures can be very complicated, but as retiree activists I believe we have a moral responsibility to defend and educate our fellow seniors on such an important issue.

Our generation, like those who came before us, fought and died for the right to vote. We must never let politicians take this away.

Barbara J. Easterling is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She was previously the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org or call 1-800-333-7212.

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