The first sign that getting a new ID isn’t going to be easy for Beverly Mitchell and Kathleen Herbert comes before the pair have even left their downtown Philadelphia senior center. As they wait for a ride to a nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office, they get the news: The van that was supposed to take them is broken. Herbert and Mitchell are going to the DMV because they want to make sure they will be able to vote this fall. Depending on how a Pennsylvania judge rules on the state’s controversial new voter ID law, they might need to show a valid photo ID before they can punch a ballot. The court is hearing new testimony this week, and the judge has until next Tuesday to decide whether to block the law, which the state’s Supreme Court has ordered him to do if he thinks any voters will be disenfranchised.
Thousands of people in the state are scrambling to get their photo IDs, not waiting for the judge’s decision. For many, including Mitchell and Herbert, the process is a struggle. Mitchell, 68, has to renew her expired ID. Herbert has a current ID but needs to update the address. She’s 65, has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair. She’s not happy about this new law. “I think it’s stupid,” Herbert says. “Folks that have been voting all their life, like me, shouldn’t have to go through this.”
But, for now at least, she does. Eventually, another van is called, and the 9:30 planned departure time becomes more like 10:40. “I think we can start boarding,” says Angela Brown from NewCourtland, the nonprofit that runs the center and is helping low-income seniors get their ID. “Thank you Jesus,” Mitchell says.