An impassioned effort to spread word about voter ID law implications for Philadelphians made its way to Germantown’s Center in the Park on Friday morning.
There, several dozen senior citizens listened to state Sens. LeAnna Washington and Shirley Kitchen, Public Interest Law Center attorney Ben Geffen, attorney Sharon Williams Losier, former City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller and others urge them to, if necessary, get photo identification necessary to vote in November and beyond.
The event came a few days before a lawsuit challenging the controversial law will be heard in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.
Outgoing state Rep. John Myers’ fiery speech sent at least one microphone flying off the dais in the Center’s auditorium.
Myers offered a theory that political foes believe those potentially disenfranchised voters – senior citizens, students or others without valid photo identification – won’t be motivated to jump through hoops for the right to vote.
“The bottom line is they don’t want us to vote,” Myers said, implying that Republicans want to tamp down voter turnout in the city. “Don’t expect them to be helpful in any way. They want us spinning the wheel. It’s a game they’re playing with us. We need to make sure everybody we know votes on Election Day. That’s how we win.”
Framing it as a non-partisan issue
Prior to Myers arrival, both Washington and Kitchen noted that the effort, which will be “taken across the city of Philadelphia,” is a non-partisan attempt to ensure voters are not disenfranchised.
“This is particularly disturbing because it goes after senior citizens more than other groups,” said Kitchen, noting that she has seen no signs that state monies intended for a public-awareness campaign are being put to use. “We’re stepping up to make sure this does not effect how we vote in Philadelphia, especially during the Presidential election.”
Losier, an attorney who is working with Kitchen in the effort, had a difficult time abiding by the non-partisan approach, however.
Without citing him by name, she hearkened back to state Rep. Mike Turzai’s comments that the voter ID law will enable Mitt Romney to win the state as evidence of a concerted disenfranchisement effort.
“By [Republicans’] own numbers, there are at least 758 [thousand eligible voters] without proper ID,” she said. “In 2008, Democrats won Pennsylvania by 620,000. You all know the numbers. … It is the biggest assault on the right of citizens to vote since the end of the Civil War.”
Start of a ‘movement’
Noting “this is about the right to vote being taken away,” Washington deemed Myers’ comments as a call to action.
“This is not a first for us,” she said, hearkening back to civil-rights era protests. “We’re going to take this to the streets.”
A rally is scheduled for Saturday at the Lonnie Young Recreation Center. Also that day, the Northwest Philadelphia Voter ID outreach center opens its doors at 310 Chelten Ave. From that site, volunteers will launch a door-to-door canvassing effort to contact voters without proper identification.
Bringing it all back into perspective for people without valid ID was PILC’s Geffen.
“If you want to vote in November,” he told those assembled, “you better get moving now.”