So I went to vote today to support my man Patrick Murphy for Attorney General here in PA. I was met with a double bummer. First off, they have started checking ID for the new voter ID law. It isn't a requirement to have ID yet, but they want to get people used to it for next time. It's no problem for me, but it really burns me up that people are going to be disenfranchised by this. The second bummer was this:
WRITE-INS DO NOT WORK THIS WAY!
Shot at 2012-04-24
Shot at 2012-04-24
Pretty lame attempt at mischief making. It's too bad folks old enough to vote aren't mature enough to be beyond this kind of thing.
As for the voter ID law in PA, here is a good explanation posted by "The White Hat" at Metafilter about what these kind of laws mean for the less advantaged voters among us.
So I work at a clinic in a needle exchange up in North Philadelphia. The exchange is sort of a gateway place to access all kinds of social services, running the gamut from medical care to subsidized heating oil, and the patient population includes a large number of homeless folks-- folks who are directly affected by the new voter ID laws. In Pennsylvania, the process to get a "free" voter ID is absolutely byzantine and often times insurmountable for the majority of the people we serve. So let's try to navigate it together.
Let's say your're one of my homeless patients who's interested in voting. You don't have a photo ID, so I send you to one of the social workers on staff, and she refers you to a PennDOT location (Bus fare: $2). Well, don't spend those $2 just yet there, friend, because you need the following documentation to get your ID:
To obtain a Pennsylvania Photo Identification card, an individual needs to visit a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Driver License Center with a completed Application for an Initial Photo Identification Card; form DL-54A, and the following:
Social Security Card
One of the following:
Certificate of U.S. Citizenship
Certificate of Naturalization
Valid U.S. Passport
Birth Certificate with a raised seal
Two proofs of *residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, W-2 form, tax records
Let's start with your social security card. Well, four months ago PennDOT broke up your homeless encampment. You were away so they took your tent, your blankets, all your clothing, and, most importantly, your papers. Now how are you going to prove who you are?
Let's start by getting you a new copy of your social security card. Replacements are free, but you need to prove your identity and your citizenship status to get one, which requires (at the very least) a certified copy of a medical record and a birth certificate. The medical record is easy enough-- you had an abscess drained at the ER just last week and can go get a free copy there (Bus fare: $2). The birth certificate is more tricky. Because you don't have a photo ID, you need to have a family member, social worker, or other " eligible requestor" vouch for you, and maybe also lend you the $10 processing fee. Of course, you'll also need two documents with your name and address on them. OOPS YOU'RE HOMELESS. SORRY.
But for the sake of completeness, let's continue with our thought experiment. Maybe the needle exchange allows you to use their mailing address and you, somehow, manage to generate two pieces of official mail with your name on them. You send that stuff in (Stamp: $0.44) and wait a couple weeks. The birth certificate arrives, so you take that, along with a couple pieces of junk mail to the social security office (Bus fare: $2), and they give you a new card. Now you're cooking with gas. It's pretty expensive gas, considering that you've already spent $14.44 to get to this point (damn Obama!). But here you are. You, with your birth certificate, your social security card, and a few pieces of what everyone else calls "junk mail" but is all of a sudden so precious that THREE government agencies need to see it. Time to go down to PennDOT and claim what's rightfully yours (Bus fare: $2).
You arrive at the office, too excited to contain yourself. It's time for you to exercise your franchise. You wait in line for an hour and eventually find yourself standing in front of a PennDOT representative. You try not to think of their colleagues tearing apart your campsite under the bridge as you smile and say, "I'm here to get my voter ID."
"That'll be $13.50," says the clerk. AH AH AH YOU DIDN'T SAY THE MAGIC WORD yt ! See, you were supposed to say the word "free" in order to have your fee waived. Saying anything other than "I need a free ID so that I can vote" could be interpreted as "please charge me $13.50 for something that should have been free." Well, you didn't need that $13.50 anyway, just like you didn't need the $10 for your replacement birth certificate or the $6 you spent on bus fare. You're an unemployed homeless person, so it was totally reasonable for you to pay $29.50 and spend several days to get your free voter ID.
Congratulations. You've made it. Now go exercise your franchise. Or maybe you didn't have $13.50 and didn't make it. Well, here's hoping that there are folks out there who will exercise their franchises with your interests in mind. Without wanting to come off as harsh, your prospects do not look so good.