By Sarah Hoye, CNN
Philadelphia - Suzanne Williamson is breathing a little easier.
On Saturday, Williamson and her sister, Mattie Lee Williams, were escorted by volunteers to get the proper photo ID that will allow Mattie to vote this November.
Williamson says her sister, who has autism, has voted in every election for as long as she can remember.
But this year, after Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a new law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots, was the first time she had to fight to make it to the ballot box.
Last week, the state’s Supreme Court heard the case challenging the law, which is on appeal following a lower court's August 15 decision to uphold it.
Williamson, Williams' 61-year-old sister, spent the last several weeks trying to get her younger sister a voter ID card.
“This really bothered me because she’s been voting, and why am I going through all of this,” she said, throwing up her hands in frustration.
Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, said the law “sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Supporters of the law argue it will help curb voter fraud.
But a comment in June by a top GOP legislator is raising concerns over the law’s intent.
“Voter ID ... is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania State House, told a group of fellow Republicans.
Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state for the presidential election this fall, will be investigated by the Justice Department to determine if the state's requirement violates civil rights law. It is the first state to be investigated outside of the states covered by Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act, which was designed to protect minorities in areas with historic racial discrimination in voting.
Critics of the new law say this requirement will disenfranchise voters during a heated election season.
“Given that the vast majority of people who are impacted by this law are poor, are uneducated, or of color, or live in cities, i.e. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are likely to vote Democratic, this law could have an impact on the presidential election,” said Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
In May, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the law firm of Arnold & Porter filed a lawsuit to overturn the voter ID law passed in March.
Williamson made several trips to various Pennsylvania Department of Transportation locations across the city on behalf of her sister, who did not have acceptable photo identification to vote under the new law.
The sisters have lived together almost seven years since Williamson became Williams' primary caregiver after their mother passed away. She lays out her sister’s clothes, helps her get dressed, does her hair, sees that she gets on the bus that takes her to an adult services workshop three days a week, and is there when she comes home.
Williamson, a registered voter, also registered her sister to vote in her district. The sisters have voted together ever since they have lived together.
The new law requires every voter to present a state-issued photo ID, which Williams found difficult to obtain.
“She can’t read or write, she can’t be a mother, she doesn’t have many friends. This is the thing she depends on,” Williamson said of her sister’s passion for voting.
She turned to the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition after several failed attempts to get to obtain the proper ID. The nonpartisan campaign is made up of nearly 150 organizations that educate voters about the state's new voter ID requirements.
It is co-run by longtime community activist Joe Certaine, a former managing director for the city of Philadelphia.
“People like her, who have the determination to get it done, regardless of the cost or regardless of the number of obstacles that are put in front of you ... inspire anyone to keep up the work,” Certaine said. “Nobody ever thought in a million years that we would have to go carry the shield for people who are registered to vote but are being stopped from voting because they don’t present the right kind of identification.”
Certaine, a husky no-nonsense taskmaster who traveled around the country registering people to vote during the '60s, was moved after Williamson walked into the group’s operations center.
Williamson says her sister has voted in every election for as long as she can remember, and she’s not about to let her miss one now.
“You know, this is not right," she said."She should be able to vote and I’m gonna see that she does it.”
And Williams isn’t shy about her presidential preference.
“We’re voting for President Obama because he’s the man,” she said.
You don't have to show an ID to sign up for benefits?
Just because everyone has the right to vote does not mean everyone should vote.
This woman cannot read or write. She has no business voting if she can't understand the issues.
"Obama... he's the man" What does that mean? He's black?
My adult son has autism, but I would not feel comfortable with him voting since he does not have the capacity to understand the issues and I feel it would amount to voter fraud if he did.
Yup... They have no business voting just like the uneducated people all over USA. No ability to read or write means no vote... God help GOP in that case. 90% of GOP wont be able to vote. The point is that they are able to hear. They can hear the message being given out on TV in Speeches in rallies through friends and families. Gosh.. Why don't all campaigns just use paper and pencil instead of Sound medium so that these ignorant fools can be disenfranchised..
I agree completely. I read a lot of comments below stating that just because she cannot read or write she can still understand the issues. If she cannot read or write, or function on her own because of a mental illness then her autism is most likely very severe and saying that she can understand the issues is ridiculous. We dont let children vote, why? Becasue they dont understand the issues...
I am a firm supporter of president Obama and will be casting my vote for him in november, but I do not believe that this law is ridiculous or targeting people who will vote for Obama.
Most European countries require their citizens to obtain a government issues ID when they turn the legal "adult" age. If voting is a part of being a responsible and involved citizen, then why is obtaining a government issued ID (which is required for nearly everything anyway) so absurd? Anyone can get an ID, in my state you go to the DMV and you can get an ID for $8. Not a huge price to pay for something so necessary. There is no discrimination when EVERYONE has the opportunity to obtain an ID, you will not be turned away because you are poor as some people are suggesting.
People need to get over this and focus on laws that actually are taking away peoples' civic liberties.
Disenfranchising people is the only way we can win this one.
how can anyone do anything without proper ID ? are poor people just too dumb to figure out how to get one ?
I used to work in an office where people came to sign up for the GED exam. We required a photo ID, both upon signing the paperwork in our office and then once again at the testing site on exam day. The reason was that we needed to make sure the person getting the GED certificate was the same one taking the actual test. Most people were understanding; but you wouldn't believe how many others would argue, insisting they had no photo ID and were too poor to get one, should have this waived because their previous ID was "just stolen," etc. We couldn't let them sign up if they lacked the ID, but the mere fact that so many people argued about it made me think that perhaps there WERE places that tended to "look the other way," and the ID-less people well knew it.
Just because they didn't do it before doesn't mean that its not the right decision. For example, seat belts were never required but they are now. We need to adopt the technology and move with the times. Everyone should have an ID. Its not that hard. For PA you need your BC and 2 pieces of official mail with your address on it. Come on people. As far as Republicans stealing elections, what about all the Chicago elections that the Democrats have stolen. It doesn't matter which side came up with the idea the other side will belly ache about it and say its to prevent their voters from voting.
To be blunt, if she has autism and can't read or write, what's she doing voting? She's obviously voting what her sister tells her to vote. That's borderline vote fraud.
We need IDs for everything else,whats so difficult about getting a state ID???
How about reading the article next time before commenting. Will make you look less foolish.
Why do so many posters assume the voter ID is aimed at preventing Democratic voters from having access to the polls? Where does that come from?
It seems to me, people have the idea that Democratic voters are less likely to have or need a photo ID. Why? Who put that in their heads?
Are Republican voters that much more likely to already have a photo ID? If so why?
My bank wanted a photo ID when I opened a checking account. How does anyone today have a checking account without a photo ID? Even if money is deposited electronically, the first time you write a check at a store the person will want a photo ID.
If a person has already voted in the past, the matching signature is probably adequate to make certain the correct person is voting. But there ARE people who are good at faking signatures. I have trouble making mine look the same twice in a row.
Then there was the case of someone in Ohio who was surprised to see his name on a list of people who had voted in the dem primary for Obama. There was an article on CNN about him. He clearly stated he did NOT vote in that primary as he was out of town that day. And if he had been home, he would have voted for Hillary. So that is one instance of voter fraud that might have been prevented with a photo ID.
People MUST have faith in the voting system or faith in leadership could become a thing of the past.
Photo ID will help give people trust in the results of the election.
Study a little bit of history and you will understand why educated people recognize this as one of many similar means to eliminate the voting rights of targeted citizens. Do a bit of research on poll taxes and literacy tests, for example. Whites argued publicly that these were necessary to protect the legitimacy of the vote or provide money for schools. Covertly, they acknowledged that the intended effect was to keep certain groups from the polls.
You can also do a bit of research on what Republicans have said privately about these measures. Again, the point is to win an election by depriving targeted groups of their voting rights.
Build a bridge,, and get over it!!
Hey, the_dude, millions of people do not have photo ID. Only 30% of US citizens have ever had a passport, many people – especially city dwellers – do not drive; most federal and state benefits are electronically deposited on a debit card so no need for a bank account – and not everybody drinks alcohol. I never got a sheriff's ID when I was under 30; at 60 I still do not drive. Just got a passport but not for voting – in NY, once registered, you do not need to show anything at the polls, just sign the register where your signature is matched to the one on file. Believe it or not millions of Americans – legal, registered voters – have voted over decades without ever having, or needing, a photo ID. Wonder how it worked in the 19th century before Matthew Brady? Hmmmm........
@Floretta – When I was in college, living with my mother, we would vote at the same location. The workers would see two females with the same last name at the same address, and confuse who had already voted. This happened to me THREE times – my mother would vote on her way to work in the morning, and then I would stop by later. Each time, I had to argue with the workers, insisting I had NOT been there yet, that it was my mom and not me, etc. They would then let it go, and I'd cast my vote. However, I was a legit person - imagine if I was lying and going back a second time?? I would be perfectly able to commit voter fraud. Or, the other way - what if the workers held their ground and wouldn't let me vote?? I'd be denied my rights as a citizen. So, yes, I have NO problem with showing an ID.
Rebecca, either you had idiots for poll workers where you lived or you are lying. There are millions of households with more than one registered voter sharing the same last name and gender.
The poll workers should have seen two lines in their log with different signatures for each of you. They would ask you to sign on the line with your name and match the signatures.
@roald – No one asked for my signature at all; they just asked my name, then checked their long lists of street names and registered voters, checking off my name with a pencil. The workers were all elderly; perhaps they couldn't see the printed writing as well as they might. I have no idea. But still, that was no excuse. This was a city in central CT. I've never lived anywhere else, so I can't say for how they do it there. But this is how it happened then, a decade ago.
FWIW, I resent being called a liar. I shared my experience in a polite way. It is what it is, regardless of what you or anyone else might think it SHOULD be. Unless you were crouched behind the registration table during that time, you have no right to suggest otherwise.
@roald – Be thankful you have good poll workers. My experience over many years in different places is closer to Rebecca's. Election judges I've had are mostly retirees that are hard of hearing and can barely see. They don't check any ID, they mishear my name or address, and I have to correct them when they give me the wrong person's card. They do not match signatures.
When will people figure it out? We don't live in a democracy and the popular vote doesn't elect the president! As for voter ID, every single citizen should take personal responsibility and get a state issued photo ID. And there should be requirements to qualify to vote regardless of who you are. What's the point of allowing people to vote when they don't possess the intelligence to understand the issues? Yes, I said it.
When will people figure it out – we live in a FEDERATION made up of 50 SOVEREIGN states, The people vote for who their state should elect – we are not a SINGLE nation like England, France, Germany, etc. The popular vote does cast the vote IN YOUR STATE for president.
BTW – it is ridiculous that in order to pick up an order at a Toys R Us store that I order online they clearly state that I must have a government issued ID where the name matches the name I placed the order under. So I need an ID to basically pick up a toy – but for some reasons Democrats think it is too much to ask for an ID when voting.
If you can't distinguish voting from picking up a toy at the store, you really should study a bit of civics. Buying toys is neither a right nor a duty of citizenship.
So much for limited government. This is a solution without a problem. Verified cases of voter id that would have been prevented by this law in PA over the last three election cycles is a whopping zero.
The point of allowing people to vote, even when they do not have the mental capacity to understand the issues or the intelligence to see beyond a candidate's lies and rhetoric, is to allow Obama to be elected and begin to "fundamentally transform" this country. That is one promise he has kept...and our freedom and way of life as Americans is now at risk. Thanks ignorant Americans for allowing this man to lead us down this path for the last 4 years. It's time for intelligent voters to go to the polls.
You people are just crazy. Voting is an American privilege. Nobody – AND THIS MEANS YOU – gets to decide who is or isn't smart enough to vote. How can you even say that out loud? Stealing the election? What? This woman is an American citizen. How dare you talk about her that way? How dare you talk about anybody that way? If there has never been fraud, then the law is entirely an attempt to prohibit voting. Why? Because poor people don't like you? Why don't they? Does that even matter to you? Geeze people, get real.
Someone who understands what it means to be an American. Thank You
An adult who can not choose her clothes to wear for the day, can not dress herself or take care of herself, and can not read or write. The caretaker can not get a picture ID for voter identification? I do not care what is politically correct; some people just do not need to vote. This woman has no business in a voting booth casting a vote, she does not need anyone else "voting for her" either.
Voting is a RIGHT of all citizens over 18 who are not convicted felons. End of story.
You should not be allowed to vote if you are incapable ore reading the voting booth information, instructions and names on the ballot. The state should remove this woman from the voting rolls immediately. Thank you CNN for bringing this woman to the Election Board's attention.
@Dan – All adults over 18 are able to vote – providing they are mentally capable of making an informed decision in choosing a candidate. That's the real issue here. If the woman with autism is capable of this, then by all means, get her registered to vote. If she is not, then no, she should not be.
@Dan, I'm agreeing with Rebecca here. This case (assuming the woman spoken of is really so handicapped) would be no different than taking a 4 year old to the polls and helping him push the button you tell him to.
So Iammeyouareyou is advocating a literacy test again. Jim Crow here we come again
So your white and over 35 I got it, I am also and yet I do not feel I have the authority to decide who is smart enough or engaged mentally enough to vote. As a counter example, we never question folks ability to think rationally enough to vote that believe that FOX news is news? We never question the sanity of people who believe in a omnipotent being that decides if we go to one good place never proven to exits or one bad place never proven to exist? We never question anyone's ability to make a good voting decision we only question their legal status. Voter ID is a GOP plan to get blacks and marginal voters out of the voting boths.
Typical leftist answer. When anyone says anything opposing Obama or does anything that might help his opponent get elected, you bash Christians, bash Fox News and claim racism all at once. You are obviously one of the groupies appearing behind the president during his speeches, doting over his every word, laughing at all of his derogatory comments towards republicans, waving that "forward" sign, acting like he's a rock star.
So the blind aren't eligible? (How many voting machines are set up for Braille?)
And why don't we hear the details of these "failed attempts"? What failed?
One would argue that if you are unable to figure out how to obtain a photo ID, then perhaps one shouldn't be eligible to vote? Maybe the really REALLY stupid deserve to be disenfranchised? And yeah, I'd have to agree with one of the other posters. Sounds like the caretaker just wants to be able to vote twice.
'Course, I'd argue you should have to take some kind of civics/current events test before one is allowed to vote. At each and every election.
"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." -Sir Winston Churchill
anybody that calls other people stupid or dumb are usally that way themself
TGov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, said the law “sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Now hat's funny, using elections and integrity in the same sentence............. coming from a politician.....
if they are as careful about who they sell guns to as theyy are about who votes then I'm good with it. What do you say NRA? Sound good to you?
Last I checked, you needed an ID to buy a gun.
Guns Kill people, votes don't.
RealPeople – You are wrong. I have never known a case when a gun on it's own killed someone. Someone either pulled the trigger or was being ignorant about the handling of the gun when it killed someone.
You say, "Guns kill people. Votes Don't."
You are right. That is, unless, the votes are for war-mongering Repubs. Sadly, then, votes do kill people. 4,486 American lives to be exact (and over 110, 000 war casulties in sum)– just between the 2003 invasion of Iraq to today's occupation alone.
Conclusion= Votes for Republican war-mongers "DO KILL."
In most states it takes many paperwork filings, fees, criminal abckground checks and verifications and the presentation of PHOTO ID to get approval to buy a gun and you want any slug off the street to be able to walk into a polling place and be allowed to vote? Voting is the most powerful weapon in democracy (more powerful than a gun) and you want to give away to anyone? And then have those people walk to the next, and the next, and the next polling place and just vote all day long? That's how they do it in Chicago and Obama likes it that way. Grow up. Get an ID.
No, only registered voters who are [a] 18 or older [b] US citizens [c] not convicted felons. How many tens of thousands have voted over the last few centuries, certainly with no photographs, who could not sign their names but "made their mark" – and those votes were legal? If we're going to have literacy or citizenship tess as a prerequisite to being allowed to vote, start with current members of Congress. I'm betting half couldn't pass the current test we give to immigrants hoping to become citizens. Plenty of "smart" people who can read and write quite well are still dumb as a sack of rocks when it comes to elections.
I lived in PA for 10 years. I always needed to show picture ID to vote and there were only 646 people in my town and they all knew me. When someone with atuism and they can't read or write, hold a job or drive and needs a carer then how can they morally vote. Just asking, I mean how can they read a ballot or know where to mark? It does not seem correct and honest.
So because they are handicapped, none of the issues of medicare and etc. affect them...they have the right to vote, just as they have the right to an equal education. Just because she cant read or right doesn't mean she has no understanding!!! The people on this blog amaze me (and you think the austic woman is the one who shouldn't vote! Prejudice in so many forms smh
@disgraceful – The question here is whether the woman is mentally capable of making an informed decision in an election. Since none of us know her personally, we cannot judge for certain. However, the details provided by this article – i.e. needing her clothes laid out for her – tends to imply she isn't in a position to do this.
There are many different levels of mental capacity with regards to autism, from the totally non-verbal to those very high functioning who are employed among us in the work-force. We cannot know what this woman's knowledge of the issues is or if she has the intelligence to understand what she is doing. In that respect, she is no different from the average voter.
Who is really doing the voting here? Does the autisatic sister understand who she is voting for, or is the "caregiver" just casting two votes?
The state of Indiana has required photo id's to vote for years, a person needs an id anyway, either a drivers license or state photo id, I see nothing wrong with it. Big Deal people, get over it. Wouldn't you, as an American, PREFER to have another voting eligible AMERICAN, show the correct id before making a very important choice VOTING??? I do! So stop the whining and get over it. I don't want another 4 years of Hussein Obama in the white house embarrasing this country.
I agree having an id should be required. Like others here, I wonder how she votes if she cannot read? Sounds like the sister wants to double dip at the voting booth.
SHE CAN'T READ, NOT UNDERSTAND!! HOW IGNORANT!!
Instead of telling me to get over it, why don't you explain why the party of small government and you personally feel the need to increase regulation and erect more barriers to individual freedoms in the absence of any material problem to be solved.
"“Voter ID ... is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania..." because it will help keep demoncrats from stealing the election - not because it will keep anyone who should be voting from voting.
How dare you. There's never been a single case of voter fraud in PA. And even the PA Republicans admitted it!! There's only one reason this so-called law is being put into affect in PA and we both know what that is. To use bullyboy tricks to take the White House for those frutcake Teabaggers at all costs. Now let's talk about stealing elections. Ever hear of hanging chards on ballots in what were predominantly Democratic and black neighborhoods in Florida back in 2000??? Or the Diebold voting machine foul-ups in Ohio in 2004??? Funny who's side benefitted from those little mishaps. These little goof-ups never seem to happen in places where Republican votes are compromised the most. And you talk about Democrats stealing elections?? The NEW Extremist Republicans have made an art out of it. Get real.
Hi – that's called election fraud and, as you note, has been done often and on a large scale. It includes caging, sending out improper absentee ballots, telling selected people that voting has been moved to another day, and so forth.
Some consider it acceptable because they think it is sporting.
exactly....but the left will always spin any comment the other direction, with the support of the lame-stream media.
I have three teenage boys with autism and each of them have a photo ID. None of them drive. Every time we see a doctor or therapist we are required to show it.
Bless your heart, come back when they are 60 and don't have you to look after them and then tell us how they are doing. Dont' you get it?
@Real History – Karen said her boys have photo IDs and are currently required to show them at various places. How would that change if it were another family member or other caregiver with them? Not at all.
@Real History – completely irrelevant. She is explaining that it is very possible, and, in some places, required that her autistic children have photo ID. Therefore it is not so difficult for the woman quoted in the article to obtain one.
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