Plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law presented their final witnesses Tuesday in an effort to convince a state judge that it cannot be implemented without disenfranchising large numbers of voters. Three witnesses — all older women who no longer have driver’s licenses and rely mainly on relatives and friends for transportation — testified in video recordings played before Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the yet-to-be-enforced mandatory photo ID requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, would discourage many such people from exercising their right to vote. State officials say any registered voter who lacks an acceptable ID can get a special Pennsylvania Department of State voting-only ID for free through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
One of the video witnesses, Patricia Norton, 73, testified that she gave up trying to get a free photo ID prior to last year’s presidential election because of an unpleasant encounter with a PennDOT clerk and chronic back pain that requires her to use a wheelchair or a walker.
Ms. Norton, who has lived in the Berks County borough of Womelsdorf for nearly a half-century, said a friend drove her on the 45-minute trip to the PennDOT licensing center in Shillington. The clerk said Ms. Norton would have to pay $13.50 for a non-driver ID card but, when she tried to pay in cash, the clerk said only a check or money order was acceptable. Lacking either, Ms. Norton left empty-handed.
“I was very frustrated,” she said. “It was a painful trip, and she was not a happy helper.”