by Joby Brown
(Beaver County)—Beaver County residents joined the Pennsylvania NAACP in Harrisburg rally to have the Voter ID Law repealed. The state Supreme Court starts its hearing July 25.
Mike Turzai, the Republican Majority Leader of the PA House of Representatives, stated after the General Assembly passed the law, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
|JOHN W. JORDAN speaks to Beaver County residents. (Photo by Joby Brown)
Hearings on the constitutionality of the highly controversial law, signed into existence by Gov. Tom Corbett on March 14, are scheduled to begin July 25, with a decision expected within 10 days. A massive rally on the state capitol steps has been organized by the NAACP, ACLU, AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters, SEIU, AFSME, AARP and others, to protest and hopefully influence the court to overturn the law, and was set for July 24.
John W. Jordan, director of Civic Engagement for the Pennsylvania NAACP, came to Beaver County and Pittsburgh to educate voters on the significant aspects of the law. He spoke at the Steelworkers’ Union (Local 8183) Hall in West Bridgewater. Jordan began by explaining why he came to a small place like Beaver County, stating, “I came to Beaver County because of the passion of people here toward guaranteeing voters’ rights. The law disenfranchises many voters, who turned out in record numbers in 2008, senior citizens, women, 18-25 year olds and students. Despite heavy lobbying by the NAACP and other human rights organizations prior to the legislature’s vote, the bill still passed and was signed into law.”
“The bill was strategic, well funded and specifically targeted, but not well thought out,” Jordan said. “I have to remain as non-partisan as possible, since the NAACP is a non-partisan organization, but I’m not stupid, and neither are the people in this room. Women are the most transient group, especially African-American women; in other words, they often live with parents, friends or on campus. The stipulation of the law that requires two proofs of residence is a powerful tool to make sure many are disenfranchised.”
Another potential problem, according to the Brennan Report, is that women often don’t change the name on their IDs when they get married. Jordan said, “for whatever reason, they tend to hold on to their maiden names, so make the residency and matching name on the ID a requirement. A good way to disenfranchise a large group.”
Prior to this law, 18-year-old high school students could show their student ID and vote. “The new law wipes out high school IDs as valid documents for voters. Regarding college students, Jordan went on, “college IDs, which were previously an accepted form of ID, now must have an expiration date printed on the card. We surveyed 114 colleges and universities and 95 of them did not have expiration dates. College IDs are good enough to do almost anything, but not good enough to vote in PA.”
The NAACP and ACLU also helped pave the way for felon voting rights. Anyone in jail but awaiting trial or convicted of any crime except murder, has the right to register to vote and vote via absentee ballot in any election.
AARP has 2.7 million members in Pennsylvania, but 570,000 of them do not have the required ID to be eligible to vote. “They have photo IDs, they’ve been voting for years, they’ve been carrying on with their business, being able to do whatever they need to do with the ID that they have in their pockets.”
The disenfranchisement really touches many, but Jordan focused on Blacks, “let’s talk about African-American seniors who were born years ago in states that behaved badly. Many in this group have been able to use baptismal certificates in lieu of birth certificates because they were never issued a birth certificate.”
The new law requires a birth certificate with a raised seal as an accepted proof of age when getting photo IDs at PennDOT. Since some citizens have to pay for transportation to PennDot/Vital Statistics and for documentation to get required ID to vote, Jordan, NAACP Attorney Anthony Jackson and many others call this a form of poll tax, a practice outlawed many years ago by the Voting Rights Act. Jordan, who was born in Birmingham, Ala, mentioned that, “in the old south, Black children were not allowed to be born in most hospitals, so most babies were delivered by mid-wives. When the baby was baptized in the nearest river, lake or stream, a pastor would issue a baptism certificate as proof of birth.” No birth certificate was ever issued.
“Corbett told everyone what he planned to do. He cut over a billion dollars from education, however, he’s spent billions on prisons,” Jordan said. “He’s trading education for incarceration, spending money on state pens instead of working with single moms, bringing parents together with their children in the play pens. This is the kind of nonsense that’s going on here in Pennsylvania. Our response is registration, education, mobilization and on Election Day, voter protection.”
He said the NAACP has a network of attorneys and law firms prepared to investigate any Election Day improprieties. If anyone notices any irregularities at or around the polls from 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. anywhere in the United States, they are to call: 1-800-MYVOTE1.
Speakers at the July 24 rally will include Rev. Al Sharpton of MSNBC & NPR; Senator Dalen Leech; Jerry Mondisire, PA NAACP President & National Board Member; David Fillman, President of AFSME; Michael Burnell, Executive Director of SEIU and Rick Bloomingdale, AFL-CIO president.
Rev. Sharpton, who has been critical of voter ID laws, which have been passed in 12 states, held a voters’ rights rally with Martin Luther King III on July 11 in Atlanta. The PA law has been called by many, the strictest of all 12. Jordan closed by mentioning, “everybody is under attack, so there has to be a coalition of unions, which have worked with the NAACP since 1909, clergy, African-Americans, Caucasians, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, everyone. We have to mobilize, get voters registered, educate them and get them to the polls, call them, drive them to the polls if they need rides.”
Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik, “I made a phone call the Friday before Obama was inaugurated, and I do agree that it started the day after the election in 2008 that they don’t want a Black President, I don’t care what anybody says,” said Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik. “That’s Gospel, and as stated earlier, it is a war out there, it’s class warfare, us against them, the rich against whoever. They don’t care. It’s run by the media, you all know.”
Linwood Alford, Chairman of the Beaver/Lawrence Central Labor Council stated, “the law is part of a plan that’s designed to suppress and oppress voters, to separate us, and to steal, kill and destroy: steal votes, kill unions and destroy the middle class.” Alford urged those in attendance to recruit as many as possible to take the free bus trip to Harrisburg.