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The Voter ID Struggle in Pennsylvania: Losing ID Is About Losing More Than The Right to Vote

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Written by Hannah Jane Sassaman for RH Reality Check.This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

We're taking up a collection at my office, here at the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, PA, for some of our radio producers and campaigners. 

For six years, we've believed that the right to speak means little without the right to be heard--and hundreds of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania residents have agreed with us.  We're poor and working people producing media that tells the untold stories of people in Pennsylvania--and developing those people into leaders united to change our city and state. We're a tight crew, so when folks are having trouble, we come together to help each other out. One young man, Marco (not his real name), is a producer at Radio Unidad, Philadelphia's only Spanish-language community news show. Andres and Paulita (not their real names) are leaders in another immigrant rights campaign that's been meeting since January. Even though they work hard, support families, and in many cases own homes and pay taxes--the state has unceremoniously cancelled their drivers' licenses, saying that the Tax ID numbers they used to get their licenses aren't proof enough of their right to live in the US. 

But they have families to support, and work to do. So they get in their cars and drive-- hoping for the best. But they were stopped by the police, and charged fines of several hundred, up to a thousand dollars, for driving without licenses. They need to drive to work, to pay those fees. And they might get stopped again, and again--and their hard-earned money will go to filling the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's coffers. And that's what gets me.

As Charlene Carruthers said in her powerful piece on the relationship between voter suppression and reproductive rights, the current fight to make sure that thousands of Pennsylvanians without ID get to vote is important--vital--to making sure that our communities get to the polls to make important decisions on the direction of our state and country. Recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of State, processed and analyzed by the labor federation AFL-CIO, shows that 20 percent of Pennsylvania voters--and 43 percent of Philadelphia voters--might not possess ID valid enough to get them into the voting booth. But we need to understand two things. 

 

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