Turnout was low at Friday’s inaugural Voter ID legal assistance clinic, but that didn’t stop representatives from SeniorLAW Center and Face to Face from focusing on their main mission.
Karen Buck, executive director of SeniorLAW Center, said the goal of the clinic was to help individuals receive an acceptable form of identification in time to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
“One of the reasons we are doing this clinic is because even folks who were born in Pennsylvania and who can go to a drivers license center and have their birth certificate checks with the Department of Health have to make two trips to get a photo ID,” said Buck.
On hand, volunteer attorneys and paralegals individually helped 10 residents determine what documents they needed by explaining Act 18 of 2012, which requires all voters to show photo identification with an expiration date. During the one-on-one consultations, they also discussed the requirements to vote and, if needed, helped residents apply for birth certificates in Pennsylvania and other states.
Among the crowd was Lenora Carey, 101, who was born in North Carolina and moved to Philadelphia with her mother when she was a teenager.
Carey has voted her entire adult life, except for one year when she was sick and unable to go to the polls. She still remembers the first time she voted and described the experience as a day when “I was walking like I owned stuff.”
“I was so proud because I am a black woman, we come a long ways and one time we couldn’t vote and when I got the chance to vote, I was so happy and still am happy,” said Carey who needs a delayed birth record because her birth was not reported when she was born. She was delivered by a midwife.
Carey is unsure of who she is going to vote for in the upcoming election, but said she would be very disappointed if she lost that opportunity to vote.
“[I’ve] come too far not to vote because this is not slavery time now,” said Carey. “When we were slaves we could not do things, but now we are free people.”
Gloria Torres, 56, has had difficulty obtaining identification throughout her whole life because of an informal adoption that she recently learned about.
Torres (born Pabon) was adopted when she was six-months-old and has no knowledge of her birth parents or family. Therefore, she has no way to prove that Gloria Torres and Gloria Pabon is the same person. She has traveled to Puerto Rico and New York to try to resolve the issue.
The only information that she has is a letter from the Social Security office stating that someone would send her a new social security card. That was written three years ago and she yet to receive it.
In addition to obtaining identification so that she can vote, she says it’s also key in helping her to keep her home and her job.
“I have to work and I have to survive. I may be losing out on a job that I just got because I don’t have ID,” said Torres who learned that she must show proof of identification to her employer.
Through the legal assistance clinic, Torres was set up with attorneys from the law firm of Pepper Hamilton who will be taking her case on as pro bono work.
Vernoica Ludt, director of Face to Face Legal Center, expects to do more legal assistance clinics in the near future.
“We are finding that many people need a lawyer to get an ID. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is,” said Ludt.