Why Don’t They Just STFU and Get Granny Her Voter ID?

The first time I voted, I think I was four years old.

Technically, didn’t vote – but my mother took me with her to the polling station, set up in an elementary school I would later attend. She showed me how she marked her ballot, and there was some kind of handle-thingie that I got to “help” pull.

My mother was born just a few years after the 19th Amendment was passed, and she never missed an election, even when she was dying of breast cancer. She was the daughter, sister, and granddaughter of veterans, and served in the Coast Guard herself during WWII.

Yet if she were alive today, she (or Stepmother 1.0 or 2.0) might be among the millions of voters disenfranchised in recent years, for not having a current photo ID.  Many elderly people, especially poor elderly people, don’t “get” the need for maintaining a photo ID, given the cost and inconvenience. Their pensions or Social Security checks are usually direct-deposited into their bank accounts. Many of them are “old school” and don’t like to use credit cards or checks, instead going in person to their banks, withdrawing cash (and chatting up the bank tellers while there). Up until very recently, there wasn’t much they couldn’t do without an ID, including voting, and as long as they remembered their Social Security number.

Oddly enough, elderly people who live at home with family are at a voting disadvantage. Those who are in a residential care facility that provides photo ID’s for their residents are considered properly identified.

(Note: A version of this piece was first published on my blog in 2012.)

How would I get my own mother a voter ID, or, preferably, a standard non-driver ID?

To obtain a Pennsylvania Photo Identification card, an individual needs to visit a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Driver License Center with a completed Application for an Initial Photo Identification Card; form DL-54A, and the following:

Social Security Card


One of the following:

  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Valid U.S. Passport
  • *Birth Certificate with a raised seal


  • Two proofs of **residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, W-2 form, tax records

What many sites neglect to say is that most women will also need to document any name changes through marriage and divorce.

Let’s start with the most time-consuming: Birth Certificate.

Most older people who have never applied for a passport don’t have a copy of their “Birth Certificate with a raised seal.”

My mother was born in Wisconsin. We could apply for hers via mail or faxbut we need to send copies of her non-expired photo I.D. (See how this gets fun?)  Or, we can send current copies of TWO of the following: Government-issued employee I.D. badge with photo; U.S. passport; Checkbook/bankbook; Major credit card; Health insurance card; Recent dated, signed lease; Utility bill or traffic ticket.

Obviously, we don’t have the government ID badge or passport. *sigh*  Mom lives with me, so no utility bills in her name; doesn’t drive, so no traffic tickets; Probably isn’t carrying any major credit cards, though she may have a card for the Bon Ton… We can scare up copies of her Medicare card and her checkbook/bank statement. Score! I can pay for these fees with my credit card. Cost to expedite one copy birth certificate via regular mail – $46.00 (Extra copies available for $3.00 ea)  Luckily, the same ID will work for getting a copy of her marriage certificate. Cost – another $46.00.  (Is the cost of all this documentation prohibitive for some families? Yes.)

Note: as mentioned, my own mother is deceased; I’m going on hypotheticals. (And fondest wishes. Unlike the voter-ID proponents, who are going off hypotheticals and darkest fears.)  But while Mom  was getting her affairs in order before she died, and got a copy of her birth certificate, then, it was discovered to contain some important errors. She then had to file more forms to have it corrected, an expensive and time-consuming process. 

From Wikipedia:

Cost of voter identification cards[edit]

According to a Harvard study, “the expenses for documentation, travel, and waiting time [for obtaining voter identification cards] are significant—especially for minority group and low-income voters—typically ranging from about $75 to $175. When legal fees are added to these numbers, the costs range as high as $1,500.”[46][47] So even if the cards themselves may be free, the costs associated with obtaining the card can be expensive.[46] The author of the study notes that the costs associated with obtaining the card far exceeds the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.[47]

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

In my hypothetical situation – I would take off work as required, and drive Mom to the local PennDot center, not too far from where I lived in the main part of town. For those in more rural areas, or without a car, transportation might be a problem. It is one thing to take a variety of buses to your destination if you are relatively young and able-bodied; it is a whole ‘nother ballgame if you are shepherding an elderly relative who may not be in the best of health.

Unlike California, PennDOT centers you can’t make an appointment; you go to them… and wait. Maybe you’ll be in and out quickly; maybe you’ll be there all day.  Not easy if you are elderly and/or disabled, or helping someone who is.

And if they say you don’t have all your documents in order? Go home and try again later.

But isn’t it worth it, to safeguard our elections?

A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice concluded that voter impersonation was rarer than being struck by lightning. The author of this report, Justin Levitt, later reported in 2014 that he had identified only thirty-one credible instances of voter impersonation since 2000, involving a total of 241 ballots, out of a billion ballots cast.[64][65]

Why are we so terrified of the extremely rare instances of voter impersonation, and not at all worried about electronic interference by a hostile foreign power WHO’S ALREADY INTERFERED with our elections?

We don’t know how many legitimate, registered voters are being removed from voter rolls right now. That should concern every American.

via https://imgflip.com/i/1evtgp

Voter ID laws aren’t actually about safeguarding our elections, but suppressing the vote of minority voters. If we want to have actual, fair elections, we need to safeguard our electronic systems, replace older, hackable machines, allow early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots (Oregon already has all-mail voting), return to paper ballots, expand voting hours, or perhaps make election days a federal holiday.

Why not make elections fair again?

Or perhaps, for the first time.


4 Replies to “Why Don’t They Just STFU and Get Granny Her Voter ID?”

  1. Good gravy! What complicated world we live in! The by-law officer in our fair town tried to ticket a little child who had set up a lemonade stand because (he or she) didn’t have a business license. The town outrage boiled merrily for many days.

  2. I moved from KY to SC and it’s been a nightmare trying to get my id. I don’t drive, but I do need an id. I’ve taken so much paperwork and every time I’m missing one item. I’ve been there three times and still don’t have it!

    1. I hate that it has been so complicated for you. It truly shouldn’t be this hard. Here’s hoping you and others are able to vote in SC.

  3. Amazingly difficult. Living here in Oregon I hate vote by mail because I liked the booths but it really is better than not having thousands voting. You can post your vote or there are drop off spots around too.

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