93-year-old Germantown resident is the lead plaintiff in Voter ID lawsuit

A Germantown resident is at the center of a lawsuit filed Tuesday seeking to overturn the state’s controversial Voter ID law.

Viviette Applewhite, 93, is the lead plaintiff in a suit filed in Commonwealth Court by the ACLU and the NAACP that challenges the measure’s constitutionality (PDF).

The current law, House Bill 934, requires voters to present valid photo identification at the polls during state and federal elections.

That’s a problem for Applewhite.

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Not a driver

The Germantown High School grad, who has voted in almost every election since 1960, has never driven. As such, she does not have a driver’s license.

Applewhite also doesn’t have a copy of her birth certificate, a mandatory document when applying for a state-issued photo ID, driver’s or otherwise. Several years ago, a purse containing “important documents” was stolen, according to the suit.

Her repeated efforts to obtain a birth certificate from Pennsylvania’s Division of Vital Records have so far proven fruitless.

If nothing changes, Applewhite will be unable to vote in November’s general election, when the law takes full effect.

“I just don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair,” said Applewhite, whose Wayne Avenue home has been flooded with phone calls since the suit was released, a taxing ordeal for the wheelchair-bound senior.

Ongoing controversy

Opponents argue that the current law will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters who don’t have a proper ID like Applewhite. College students, minorities and the elderly are seen as the most at-risk populations.

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

Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said there simply isn’t any evidence to support the need for such a precaution.

“You would think that if you’re going to pass a law like this, that there would be some kind of scandal,” said Walczak.

There is evidence that qualified voters in the state will be disenfranchised by the law, he added.

Local NAACP response

“[Gov. Tom] Corbett and his henchman are really trying to take Pennsylvania backwards,” said Jerry Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, which joined the ACLU’s lawsuit.

The suit, filed on behalf of 10 plaintiffs, names the governor, who signed the bill into law in mid-March, and Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose duties include overseeing Pennsylvania elections.

Ron Ruman, Aichele’s spokesperson, said the law stands on sound legal footing.

“We feel confident that our statute will be upheld,” he said. “Our lawyers will do what they can to defend it.”

Tuesday’s lawsuit followed a political push to repeal the Voter ID law. State Reps. John Myers (D-201) and Dwight Evans (D-203), both from Northwest Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 2313 on Monday to that end.

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