Germantown woman casts the ballot she would have been denied if voter ID requirement was enacted

Around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wilola Lee buttoned up her red winter coat, slung her black pocketbook over her left shoulder and headed out to vote.

 “I’m excited,” Lee said with a smile as she walked towards her Germantown polling place.

It was a two-block trip she feared she wouldn’t make earlier this year.

In March, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID legislation, which requires that all voters produce valid photo ID at the polls before casting a ballot.

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The measure, now temporarily suspended, was a big problem for Lee, a lifelong voter.

Her birth certificate, a document needed to obtain a state-issued ID, was destroyed in a fire more than 30 years ago. Efforts to replace it since then have been fruitless.

Lee, 60, was born by midwife inside her childhood home in McIntyre, Ga. The now-familiar circumstance has made tracking down official records a difficult task.

“They [courthouse employees]  said they couldn’t find it,” said Lee, who now has pro-bono lawyers on the case.

In May, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the measure’s constitutionality.

Thousands of voters, the ACLU argued, would be disenfranchised starting with November’s Presidential Election, when the law was scheduled to take effect.

Proponents maintained that the law is a common-sense approach to cutting down on voter fraud.

Lee felt otherwise and agreed to testify when the ACLU’s case was heard in Commonwealth Court.

“They never enforced a photo ID and now all of a sudden they want to do this. I think they want to do this because we have a black president in office,” said Lee.

Judge Robert Simpson, who presided over the proceedings, initially ruled to keep the law on the books.

He later decided to delay the law’s enforcement until after the November election, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asked him to take a closer look at the measure.

The request, handed down following an appeal by the ACLU, specifically asked Simpson to examine whether the law could be properly implemented before the November election.

Simpson ruled that there wasn’t enough time for voters without an ID to get one before Nov. 6.

Lee was naturally thrilled with the decision. “It would have felt strange – other people can vote, but I can’t.”

As she walked out of the Morton Homes polling station, she felt even better.

“I got nervous that they weren’t going to let me vote, but it wasn’t no problem. Feels good,” said Lee before heading back home.

Later tonight, she’ll sit satisfied as she watches the results roll in while rooting for Obama.

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