A 69-year-old black woman who grew up in a small, segregated city wept on the witness stand Monday as she testified about the trouble she had voting in 2014 because she could not comply with Virginia’s voter identification law. Josephine Okiakpe said she plucked several forms of ID from her purse — birth certificate, Social Security card, voter registration card, even a bank statement — and handed them over to workers at her Woodbridge polling place. The only things she had with her picture on them were her North Carolina driver’s license and an expired Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ID card. “They wouldn’t take any of that,” said Okiakpe, who earlier had described attending an all-black public school in Clinton, N.C., that got hand-me-down books when the white schools got new ones.
As she haggled with the poll workers, she said some other voters looked at her and snickered. “I felt very frustrated, very upset,” she said, trying to fight back tears.
Okiakpe was the first witness in the Virginia Democratic Party’s lawsuit challenging the state’s 2013 law requiring voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls. The trial before U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond is expected to last at least a week. The outcome will not affect the state’s March 1 presidential primaries.