SeniorLAW Center and partners file amicus brief in Voter ID Litigation, detailing impact on older Pennsylvanians

SeniorLAW Center filed an amicus brief in the Applewhite v. Commonwealth Voter ID litigation on July 18th, detailing the substantial burdens on older Pennsylvanians that will be imposed as the result of Act 18 (the Voter ID law).  SeniorLAW Center was joined by national, statewide and local nonprofit organizations that serve and protect older Pennsylvanians and the institutions that serve older Pennsylvanians, including AARP, Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, ElderNet of Lower Merion and Narberth, the Institute for Leadership Education, Advancement and Development, Intercommunity Action, Inc., and Jewish Social Policy Action Network.  As explained herein, older Pennsylvanians are disproportionately and adversely affected by the identification requirement in Act 18 and are at a great risk of losing their franchise.  See below to read the full brief.

Brief of Amici Curiae – Part 1

Table of citations and appendices – Part 2

Some highlights of the brief:

  • Older Pennsylvanians, face mobility, transportation, disability, financial and geographic challenges to a degree that other voters do not face which make getting.

o       Of the approximately 2.6 million older Pennsylvanians 60 years or older, 11% live in a household without a vehicle available.  37% of older Pennsylvanians 60 years or older with incomes less than 100% of the poverty level live in a household without access to a vehicle.  Disability rates are very high among older Pennsylvanians.  35.9% of non-institutionalized Pennsylvanians 65 years or older – approximately 677,300 older Pennsylvanians in all – are disabled in one form or another.  Disability rates continue to increase with age: 56% of persons over 80 live with a severe disability.

o       11.9% of Pennsylvanians 65 years or older live at or below 150% of the poverty line.  According to a 2009 study by AARP Public Policy Institute, the median household income for Pennsylvanians 65 years or older was $28,937, which ranks Pennsylvania 40th among all U.S. states in terms of the income of persons 65 years or older.

o       Approximately 595,000 seniors live in Pennsylvania 48 rural counties.  Due to a lack of public transportation, fewer and more expensive private transport options, and the challenges of sheer distance and isolation, many older Pennsylvanians in rural areas of Pennsylvania face even greater obstacles in meeting the new stringent standards of Act 18 than their counterparts residing in suburban or urban areas.

  • Large numbers of older Pennsylvanians lack acceptable voter identification under Act 18. According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2006, 18% of individuals 65 years or older do not possess a government-issued photo identification.  Based on a population of 1,959,307 Pennsylvanians 65 years or older, 18% translates into 352,675 eligible Pennsylvania voters 65 years or older without government-issued photo identification.
  • Older voters are significantly more likely to be without government-issued photo identification than any other age group. Seniors 65 years or older are more than 10 times more likely than any other age group to relinquish their driver’s licenses voluntarily for medical reasons.  In fact, 20.5% of individuals 65 years or older no longer drive at all.  Only about 25% of Americans possess a valid U.S. passport and seniors’ mobility limitations restrict their ability to travel internationally and correspondingly reduce the frequency with which older voters obtain new or renew expired passports.
  • Obtaining acceptable voter identification will be impossible for many older Pennsylvanians and a Herculean task for other older Pennsylvanians. 7% of all voting-age U.S. citizens do not have a Certificate of Naturalization or a birth certificate with raised seal (or a U.S. Passport or other citizenship documentation). Seven percent of older Pennsylvanians equates to approximately 137,151 eligible voters age 65 or older.  Women and low-income individuals will find it particularly difficult to obtain PennDOT ID.  Among voting-age women who have their birth certificate, 48% have a birth certificate in their current legal name.  Others have changed their legal name since birth, for example, due to marriage.  In addition, citizens earning less than $25,000 are more than twice as likely to lack a Certificate of Naturalization or a birth certificate compared to citizens earning more than $25,000.
  • There are likely at least 150,000 older Pennsylvanians for whom there is no record of their birth. Significant under-registration of births in the U.S. at the time many older Pennsylvanians were born means that for many older Pennsylvanians, there is no record of their birth and they have no hope of satisfying the requirements for a PennDOT ID.  African Americans are disproportionately affected.
  • Older Pennsylvanians born in Puerto Rico face a particular challenge. Puerto Rico passed a law that invalidated all Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010.
  • For many older Pennsylvanians, the burden of obtaining the required documentation in terms of dollars, time and difficulty will make exercising their franchise so difficult and costly as to effectively deny them the right to vote.

SeniorLAW Center will be holding Voter ID legal assistance clinics with diverse partners to help voters facing ID problems, starting August 3rd.  Please call the Pennsylvania SeniorLAW HelpLine for more information:  1-877-PA SR LAW (1-877-727-7529).

For more information about Voter ID issues, including media inquiries, please contact Karen Buck, Esq., Executive Director at 215.701.3201 or kbuck@seniorlawcenter.org or the SeniorLAW Helpline at 877.PA SR LAW.