Twenty Hours of Work & Two Trips To The DMV: What It Takes To Get Voter ID In Pennsylvania

Shortly before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld the state’s contentious voter ID law, State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-PA) predicted chaos, saying it was “unequivocally clear that the state cannot pull this off by Election Day.” Now, as the state Supreme Court prepares to hear the case on Thursday, Hughes’ warning has born out. ABC News reports that Pennsylvania’s DMVs are swamped by residents trying to get the appropriate government-issued ID before November 6.

The state has issued 72,000 IDs specifically obtained for voting purposes since the law was enacted in March. To get a non-driver ID, a resident must provide their birth certificate, a Social Security card, and two documents proving residency. Even to obtain an voting only ID card, which was introduced in late August as an effort to accommodate the thousands of Pennsylvanians without ID, the state requires a Social Security number, proof of residence and a signed affidavit pledging the voter cannot get another kind of ID. These requirements are translating into hours-long lines at the DMV and Social Security office, multiple trips to obtain birth certificates and affidavits, and many miles of driving for many rural Pennsylvanians.

ABC News interviewed one man who was struggling to navigate his 87-year-old mother through the burdensome process:

Voters who have the six types of documents necessary to apply for the state ID card have limited time to apply. For residents of 13 counties, there is only one day per week that the DMV is open to apply for an ID. And in 10 more counties it’s only open two days per week.

For Klincewicz and his 87-year-old mother that limited schedule meant two days of trying in order to get her the ID required to vote, after she mistakenly surrendered her state ID because of a Department of Transportation error. Klincewicz’s wife had to make two trips to the DMV where she and her mother-in-law, Jisele, waited upwards of four hours to get the ID. All told, he and his wife spent more than 20 hours making phone calls, writing emails, driving to the DMV and waiting in lines to get his mother’s ID reinstated so she could vote in November, Klincewicz said.

Another ID-less elderly voter in Pennsylvania attracted attention on Twitter yesterday after his son, Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money, tweeted about their problems getting access to the right documents. The state is also feeling the burden, as the State Department estimates they have spent about $100,000 issuing free IDs to low-income residents.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hold a hearing addressing the constitutionality of the law on Thursday at 9:30 am after a lower court upheld the law based on a flimsy precedent from 1868 which warned against letting “rogues and strumpets” and “wandering Arabs” vote. Courts have already blocked similar laws in Texas and Wisconsin, while South Carolina’s ID requirement is currently under review.