The first time Viviette Applewhite went to the polls, she cast her vote for John F. Kennedy. But this year, a strict new voter identification law will likely prevent the now-93-year old woman and many others in Pennsylvania from participating in their country’s democratic process. And Applewhite won’t stand for it.
She will be the plaintiff in the voter identification lawsuit being filed by the ACLU and the NAACP in the state, which claims that “the state’s voter photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by depriving citizens of their most fundamental constitutional right — the right to vote.”
Applewhite no longer has a copy of her birth certificate, and she does not have a drivers’ license. Without either of these things, the new Pennsylvania restrictions say that she is ineligible to vote.
But her circumstances are not at all uncommon. African Americans, especially elderly African Americans, are disproportionately less likely to have a birth certificate.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice:
Twenty-five percent of African-American voting-age citizens have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to eight percent of white voting-age citizens.
Harsh voter ID laws, which former President Bill Clinton characterized as the most serious threat of disenfranchisement since Jim Crow laws, have been passed in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Twenty four other states are trying to pass similar laws.
Watch Applewhite talk about the suit: