‘BetheVOTE’ block party helps people secure proper voter IDs and registration cards

To strains appropriated from Naughty by Nature’s “Down with O.P.P.,” Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. raised the roof and responded “Yeah, you know me!” when prompted, “Got voter ID?”

On Thursday, Jones held a day-long Voter ID Block Party at Shepard Recreation Center in West Philadelphia. A joint effort between Jones and his Republican council colleague David Oh, the event aimed to raise awareness of the implications of Voter ID, help residents gain proper ID or register to vote and, as Jones stressed throughout the occasion, reinforce the importance of voter education. 

While it was held deep within the Western segment of his district – “The heart of Philadelphia” as one emcee termed it – Jones’ staff emphasized that it was part of a city-wide effort designed to impact November’s elections.

“The problem we’ve had is getting people through the lines,” Jones said, referring to apparent delays at PennDOT centers. His office was coordinating transportation to the sites, with approximately 30 people taken in by 1 p.m. on Thursday, and another 120 registering to vote.

“This isn’t even about just this election,” said Jones. “I want everyone to have ID.”

It’s ‘anti-senior and anti-young people’ 

As reported by NewsWorks, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that efforts to appeal the Voter ID law would be returned to the lower-level Commonwealth Court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the lower court judge to block the law unless he can meet two requirements: That newly created state-issued IDs are available to all, and that the cards’ availability means no voters will be disenfranchised due to the photo ID requirement.

Asked for his take, Jones’ said that the decision has “awoken a sleeping giant,” resulting in more people paying attention to the issue in urban centers, regardless of party affiliation.

“It’s anti-senior and anti-young people,” he said of Voter ID. “Young people who very well may have slept this whole thing [out] have decided, ‘Wait a minute, you’re trying to take something from me.'”

Motivating the crowd 

Helping Jones energize the crowd in West Philadelphia were State Representatives James Roebuck (D-188) and Ronald Waters (D-191)

Roebuck warned the audience that their right to vote “is under attack.”

Pointing to what he said was Republican Party chicanery, “it’s not even subtle anymore,” he claimed. “It’s out front.”

Waters iterated similar themes. “You can see how bad the bill was, that they had to constantly change it and change it,” he said, ostensibly referring to Republican backers of the Voter ID bill. “But we caught them, and we knew we had them, we just didn’t have the proof.”

Waters then referenced House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s comments to a Republican audience in late June, where Turzai reportedly remarked, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.”

Turzai subsequently said he meant only that a Republican candidate would have a better shot of winning the state because the voter ID law would establish a level playing field by eliminating voter fraud.

Waters offered a differing interpretation: “Now we have the proof,” he said.

Still, Waters expressed optimism and enthusiasm for the upcoming election.

“I want us to come out and vote even better than we did in 2008,” he said, “to show them what we’re working with.” 

‘This is a participatory sport’

In the meantime, residents of the Fourth Councilmanic District will bide their time until Councilman Jones’ YouTube video for the “Got Voter ID?” campaign goes viral.

Jones will be hosting debate-watching parties in October, and will be working with various organizations to ensure a strong voter turnout in November.

“There’s a direct correlation between who gets elected and what resources we have in this community,” he said. “This is not a game for spectators – this is a participatory sport, and that’s a fact.”

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