Bill Moyers: Share Your Stories of Voter Suppression

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In ten states so far — some of them swing states — voter ID laws make it prohibitively difficult for some voters, particularly the elderly, poor and minorities, to get required photo identification. Besides requiring voter ID, other laws have decreased the number of early voting days, made it harder for nonprofit groups to register new voters, and repealed election day voter registration.

Rather than throw your hands up in desperation at the powerful political steamroller smashing our democracy, Bill encourages you to re-double your efforts to make a difference, as others have. He offers some real-life, real-people examples, and asks you to share your encounters with politically-motivated rules that make it harder to register or vote, as well as stories of your efforts to overcome them.

Leave your reporting in the comments below or at “The Fight to Vote” our special area spotlighting voter suppression across the country. And please share his request with friends and family.

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  • Sally Dunford

    I’m a social worker at a Neighborhood Assistance Center in the Bronx. I have not seen any problems with voter suppression, but I have helped folks get picture ID and it’s time consuming and can be difficult. To get a Non-Divers ID in NYS you need to show a variety of proofs of identification. One of these must be a Social Security card.

    I had two senior citizens who wanted IDs so they could fly to relatives. Neither had an original Social Security Card. Both had Award letters showing what Social Security paid them each month, but no card — The problem was that to get a new card, they needed picture ID, which of course they did not have. We spoke to everyone who usually can help – Congressman, governor’s office etc. We got a lot of sympathy but they couldn’t get around it, We finally solved the problem by providing them with picture ID from our agency identifying them as volunteers.

    Eventually, we were able t get one man his ID. Unfortunately, the other senior (who had wanted to see relatives in Canada before she died) died before we were able to get hers.

  • Kimo Levi Makaio

    In Hawaii we always showed our identification cards to vote. What is the problem in showing that you are a citizen that is proud to vote and be one voice, one vote, one of a kind to promote and continue to perpetuate our Democracy!!!!

  • Cynthia Pierce

    I’m a resident of Florida, the state that brought you the “dangling chad” and now (shame of all shames) Tricky Rick Scott, who was willing to flaunt his power to the point of being held in contempt and risk possible arrest for his “voter purge” in Florida. Need I say more? (Moving out of the state.)

  • Sally Peters

    My brother lived in rural Georgia until we just lost him. He was a veteran, and worked the grueling low-paying jobs all his life, living at the brink of poverty. A number of years ago, he decided he couldn’t afford a car. Without a car, he couldn’t traverse the many miles to renew an ID. GA has a voter ID law. In the last conversation I had with him, he told me that he hadn’t voted in years. Because he didn’t have an ID, this hard-working veteran didn’t have a voice in politics.

  • Marjorie Knapp

    I live in Pennsylvania, as did my Mother all her life before me. It saddens me that my Mom, if still alive would not be able to vote in this election because she did not have a photo ID. A life long Republican, poll worker an one time committee woman, Had no Birth Certifcate on file in the state, never drove a car, never got to graduate high school. She was very proud of her right of citizenship and voted in every election. It is shameful to me that others like her are having that right taken away from them.

  • Keith Nelson

    I live in Minnesota,
    where there is a voter ID amendment to the state constitution on this year’s
    ballot. Last year legislative gridlock led to a government shut-down. As my license
    was up for renewal I decided to apply for it early, in June before the shut
    down. For the first time I did not pass the vision test without glasses, and
    had to get an eye exam and new prescription, and had to have the eye doctor
    fill out a form before finishing the application for the new ID. The eye doctor
    was instructed to fax in the form, and I asked for a copy to bring back to the
    government service center, just to be safe. I delivered the form, and they
    dutifully faxed it to the capitol (a new procedure that many of them had not
    yet gotten used to).

    The shutdown happened about a month later, and I went
    about my live assuming that the card would come after the shutdown was over.
    Later, after the government was back to running, I applied for a job with a
    temp agency, and was surprised to find that my ID receipt was expired, so I went
    back to the service center, who called the capitol, who told them that they had
    no record of receiving my application. We went through the whole process again:
    the form to the eye doctor, redoing and resubmitting the application, and
    waiting again. My new card finally arrived in early February.

    I am sure that everyone involved had the best
    intentions. I applied early and supplied my forms both electronically and
    physically in case one got lost. My question is this: If this had been an
    election year and I was unable to vote as a result, who do I charge with the
    federal crime of voter obstruction?

    I have no problem with the concept of voter ID, but the
    amendment onthe ballot refers to “valid ID” an “substantially equivalent
    verification” for mail in ballots with no definitions what so ever. There
    is no discussion or how the program will be implemented, or what safeguards
    there will be to avoid mistakes. Provisional ballots are specified for those
    without ID on hand, but no mention of how long they have to retrieve
    their ID, alternatives would be accepted or how long the provisional ballots
    will be held before being discarded. In short, we are being asked to write into
    our constitution a blank check, to be legally bound to whatever they eventually
    decide before learning the nature of those decisions. If they can show their
    specific intentions, and the studies upon which they were based, I would be
    more comfortable, but this amendment frankly appears to have no planning behind
    it at all.

  • Liz Troy
  • Dan (the Independent)

    How do these people get on an airplane, a greyhound bus, charge using a credit card, cash a check and many other services that require identification? Besides most states either will provide free assistance or don’t require a photo ID, just some form of ID.

  • Dan (the Independent)

    Pa. voter ID plaintiff gets card amid appeal
    (AP) – 4 hours ago
    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Pennsylvania’s tough new voter identification law has received the state-issued photo ID card necessary to vote, despite saying she’d been rejected for years because she lacked appropriate documentation to receive the card.
    Viviette Applewhite, who recalled marching for voting rights in 1960 with Martin Luther King Jr., was issued the temporary card on Thursday, the same day lawyers for her and others opposing the law appealed a judge’s refusal to halt the law from taking effect in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
    Applewhite, 93, had trouble meeting the state’s documentation requirements to get a photo ID. For one thing, she did not have a Social Security card after it was stolen with her purse some years ago, she has said. Plus, she was adopted early in life, making the name on her birth certificate different from that on her other paperwork, and she did not have a record of the adoption.
    Applewhite received her identification card after riding two public-transit buses to a Department of Transportation licensing office and presenting a clerk with her Medicare card from the 1990s, a state document listing her name and Social Security number in her own handwriting, and proof of her Philadelphia address, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
    None of the documents, however, linked her birth certificate name of Viviette Virene Brooks to Viviette Applewhite.
    PennDOT’s licensing bureau director Janet Dolan said Friday that clerks are able to make exceptions to the document requirements and work with applicants.
    For instance, she said, PennDOT clerks are able to confirm somebody’s Social Security number with the Social Security Administration if they’re able to somehow show that the number belongs to them. But Dolan could not explain why Applewhite had been rejected before, saying she did not know what kind of documentation the woman had brought with her previously.
    Still, PennDot’s official guidelines say a Social Security card is a must to get a photo ID, and a PennDot employee answering the agency’s voter ID hotline Thursday said the card is required.

  • Laura

    We are Not a Democracy we are a Republic!

  • MLee

    I Can’t believe we have to fight the same battles we won in the 60’s! What is going on?

  • MLee

    Walk in someone else’s shoes before you criticize. Yonder Jim crow in the South up until the voting rights act all sorts of obstacles were initiated to keep blacks from voting. Also, blacks were generally not allowed to be admitted to hospitals so at-home midwife births with no birth certificates were common. Please read some civil rights history to understand. Some of us lived this.

  • Pete B

    I had a Federal Government Issued
    photo ID and the State of Ohio
    REFUSED to allow me to
    vote with it. I had to have an ID issued by the State of Ohio.

    In Ohio, after gathering together my
    Federal State Department issued Passport, my photocopy of my original Birth
    Certificate, my State-Certified Birth Certificate and my out-of-State Driver’s
    License, I had to produce my original Social Security Card and then wait in
    line for over two hours before I could get a State ID to vote in Ohio.

    The closest spot was 10 miles away
    and there was no public transportation between my place and the place to get
    the State ID.

    So, if I didn’t have a personal car
    or the money to take a taxi 20 miles round trip, I would have to walk 20 miles
    round trip.

    Why do Republicans think this isn’t
    an inconvenience?

    Why not dip voter’s fingers in dye
    to prevent them from voting twice if they really think that voting twice is a
    major issue?

    My point is how hard it is to get a
    State ID.

    If a person does not already have a
    Passport, an original copy of their Birth Certificate, a certified copy of
    their birth certificate, a different form of Photo ID, then they have to pay to
    get these. They have to plan ahead to get a new copy of their Social Security
    Card mailed to them (even though Social Security cards are not valid for

    Traveling 20 miles is a hardship,
    and with the office having ‘business hours’, it means skipping a day of work
    for employed people, and standing for two hours takes time out of your life.

    If you can’t publicly prove your
    poverty, or you didn’t research to learn about how to qualify for a free ID, or
    you are too proud to accept charity, you have to pay a fee for the ID.

    No one can reasonably claim this is
    NOT an inconvenience, especially for the old, infirm, sick, minimum wage
    worker, and many other people!

  • Michael Tuck

    Not a voter suppression story, but a plug: the History Commons is documenting the history of campaign finance and voter suppression. Citizen-powered, all volunteer, entirely donor-funded, and always in need of volunteers for research and writing. We try our damnedest to tell the story completely and without corporate media bias. The categories for campaign finance, voter rights, and election law are all under Civil Liberties. Thanks for letting me make the plug.

  • Anonymous

    The Pittsburgh DMV is not giving free voter ID, contrary to federal law. Specifically, the DMV supervisor who refused to give it to me is named Dana Nash. This happened today (8/17/2012) at 10AM at the DMV located at 708 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. My original intention was just to change my driver’s license to a PA license, and I brought all the many required ID and residency forms plus cash and a credit card. I followed the instructions on the DMV website, but it turns out they forgot to mention only checks or money orders were acceptable. That’s not a big deal, the main thing is I wanted to make sure to have ID to vote with for the November election. So then I tried to get at least free state ID while I was at the DMV, because I want to vote. I was told I cannot get free state ID, because my driver’s license is still valid in another state. They won’t change the driver’s license for free, and they won’t give me a state ID for free, even though I have all the ID and I am renting an apartment here and have all the proof (rental agreement, Verizon bill to the address, and all the forms of ID they require). He told me that people who want free voter IDs have to come back to that DMV office on August 27th, when they will start giving out a state ID that will be valid ONLY for voting purposes (and they are not accepting applications until that date). Their DMV website says nothing about separate voting IDs only starting to be given out on August 27th. I already had to take my whole morning off of work (bike+bus to the DMV, wait to be served, wait for them to decide what to do with my request for free voter ID, then bike+bus to work), and now according to him I should go back on August 27th… except that he also said I wasn’t eligible because I have a valid driver’s license. According to the DMV website, I shouldn’t have to wait until August 27th and have to return and waste more time – I should have been able to get my free state ID for voting TODAY. While I was waiting there, I spoke with a man there was helping his father, who wanted a free voter ID but was told he had to pay $13 for it (and he did). Someone needs to fix this, because clearly the law about not having to pay to vote is NOT being followed.

    I really am committed to voting, plus I need a driver’s license anyways, so I’m going to get the cashier’s check and take another morning from work to get the driver’s license. But, my attempt to get the free version which is supposed to be guaranteed made it clear to me that these barriers are huge. Heck, just getting my ID and residency proofs together and getting down to the DMV office once was a major hassle. But, they make it extra-hard, with those particular payment rules and different dates you have to come back, and by straight out refusing to give the free ID even though it’s their responsibility.

  • Florida Mike

    I live in Florida. I can say that from my own experience the process has changed/gotten more complicated, and I know that many people won’t know that until it’s too late. For me, even though I’ve had a Florida driver’s license for over 20 years, for my renewal this October I now have to have a state-certified copy of my birth certificate, which I didn’t have. So I had to track one down (and pay for it-$21.00) from my home state. I feel lucky that I figured it out now, because it takes several weeks for the b.c. to arrive. On top of that, my election office wanted me to “re-register”, they said because they wanted to make sure they had a current signature on file (even though I had done that in 2008 and have voted in every election since, even the small ones). Finally, my polling location changed to a place MUCH farther away (a drive), even though my old polling place (a short walk) will still be operating. So it is much more difficult than it used to be, and the states that changed their voter laws in lock-step to do just that, under the guise of combatting “voter fraud” (which has been practically non-existent) is a policy change to make it harder for minorities and the poor to vote, simply because they have more obstacles in their way to getting their affairs in order. I am lucky to have the resources to get it all done, and in time. I can imagine how hard it would be for a single parent that works two jobs, maybe with no internet access or no car. How does that person accomplish all that, assuming they even know about the changed requirements beforehand? And then to have to pay for documents you never needed before? It is not an accident that states with all Republican governments have enacted these laws (all at the same time, and in several swing states), which make it harder to vote, and which disproportionally affect a block of voters that historically vote Democratic. I think anyone who looked at the whole situation would agree. I can’t believe its happening. Thank you for trying to stop it.

  • dmcrane

    Many of them are elderly and no longer drive, even though they have an expired Driver’s license which any bank or service will accept, the voter registration will not accept it because it’s expired. Many people in large cities may have never driven as they’ve always taken public transportation and may have never flown in an airplane. It is easy to operate in cash if you are a part of a neighborhood and have a local store to shop at that will cash your check, then you operate in cash and buy money orders to pay bills. Also many veterans have a military picture ID but the voter registration will not accept it because it does not have an expiration date…and that is the because it does not expire until the veteran dies. PA new voter law will not accept a retired military veteran’s picture ID as proof of identification. You’re right many states don’t require it, particularly if people are registered voters and have had a voter card for years. The people PA , and Ohio, and other states are trying to block are voters who are already registered and have voted and the laws are targeted at inner city people who are the least likely to have a driver’s license.

  • dmcrane

    It isn’t really the issue of an ID, if you have always had to have one. But to pass these laws shortly before a major election and stop voters who have been voting for years (they had to show an ID to register originally) stinks to high heaven of voter suppression…much less if you have to get a birth certificate it can take months to do so if you were born in a different state, and can cost anywhere for $20 to $100 depending on the state. That is a lot of money for a 80 year old senior citizen living on Social Security. And they will not accept an expired driver’s license w/picture or expired passport w/picture or a military veterans ID card because it does not have an expiration date. Obviously these things are proof you are who you say you are, and just because they have expired should make no difference in this case.

  • Arianna

    Right now, even “Occupy” is having difficulty with the issue of voting and what it does and, according to some in Occupy Chicago, should mean. OccChi has planned an action, despite opposition within their own GA, to use the symbol of the voting ID in a manner reminiscent of the draft cards of yesteryear. Needless to say, they are losing a huge chunk of their already tiny minority participation. Some of us can still remember when, then as now, that piece of paper was worth your life.

  • John Earl

    I spent an hour or so at City Hall yesterday, after trying on the phone to get permission from the TPD to petition at the Farmers Market. for the Green Party to be on the ballot.

    It’s amazing. I can’t legally petition on city property without permission. In order to petition in the parking lot of the Mall or Midtown Shopping Center I would need to clear it with the facility managers. Of course, the most probable consequence of “getting caught” would be to be chased away, but I don’t like having authorities throw me off property.

    I met with the Director of Planning and Development Services at City Hall and he’s getting an opinion from the City Attorney.

    I went to the Post Office and was told by the Postmaster that standing outside the post office, since it’s government property, would violate the Hatch Act.

    Well today the weather’s bad anyway with “severe thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds in excess of 60MPH” according to my weather radio which woke me up this morning at 5:30AM.

  • colette paul

    Is it back to Freedom Buses? People should show up in mass and demand their right to vote and refuse to abide by these last minute shenanigans.

  • colette paul

    The ID card should not be a requirement unless everyone is provided with one prior to the election.

  • colette paul

    Back to taxation without representation

  • Anonymous

    I am white and have a brown daughter. I took her to register. I told the lady, “We need to register.” She brought me a form and handed it to me. I stared at her for a few moments, but she didn’t get the hint. “She needs to register, too.” The lady still didn’t move. “She’s OLD enough,” I said. The lady finally brought her a form. Outside I asked my daughter if she noticed anything unusual about the transaction. She said, “I don’t want to live in America.” Lovely experience for her first attempt at participating in the democratic process.

  • Laura Hammer

    Does he have a bank account? Did you know you need ID to get food stamps? Throw your wallet and your car keys in the toilet and then try to conduct your daily business for a week. I bet by the end of the week you will have found a way to replace everything in your wallet including your ID.

  • NH Karen

    I live in the swing state of New Hampshire and our Republican-controlled legislature passed a photo ID law this year that goes into effect for the 2012 election. I am extremely alarmed by these nationwide voter suppression efforts and the seeming lack of concern by so many Americans. I am also concerned that there has been little news coverage of the NH law…even the site does not have up to date information on NH. I have spoken to seemingly-well-informed NH residents who are unaware of the new law. The speed at which these measures have been rammed through state governments has been frightening.

  • kb

    Come to Arizona, we have plenty of room. lol

  • The Don

    One needs a picture ID for almost everything in life. Quit complaining and get one. Social Security, food stamps, bank accouints, prescription drugs, etc. Are you guys afraid you won’t be able to use the death roles for votes again?

  • George Jetson
  • Steve

    Shades of Nazi Germany (show me your papers…) and the police state. Instead of military checking ID’s we have the paramilitary police. All are presumed guilty until proven innocent. It’s nice you can stick your head in the sand, Don, and pretend all is well. I can’t…

  • Anonymous

    Posted this story elsewhere on the site, but it’s better here:
    I live in Arkansas, where an ID is required, but a photo ID is not. However, during an education campaign during the 2004 elections to look for efforts of voter suppression, I thought I would test the law. Knowing that a voter registration card is an accepted form of identification under Arkansas law, that is what I showed to the official. Because I did not provide a driver’s license, he refused to check the box next to “ID Provided” under my signature (which matched their record), likely providing cause to contest my vote later. So even though under Arkansas law, a photo ID is not required, prominent signs proclaim that “ID is Required” leading people to believe they must have a driver’s license or other photo ID, and election officials still treat the photo ID as the standard for proper identification.

  • Katy Griswold

    I thought that part of the constitutional language on voting included a person’s right to anonymity in their vote, am I wrong? In Idaho, we are told at the the ballot that we have to choose a republican or a democratic ballot, both of which exclude any other party, as if those are the only two. It also does not allow us to vote across party lines. There is also a new law that is supposedly for a closed primary, that forces us to register our party affiliations. This law essentially has unregistered every voter in this state, and many people are unaware that they are not registered anymore- they are now required to register with their party affiliation. Between this, and the voter ID laws going into effect, the peoples’ right to a free and anonymous vote is being terminated. What’s more, during the mid-terms, my husband chose a republican ballot, and I chose the democratic. When we received our absentee ballots, I noticed that the markings that showed through the envelope were significantly different from each other, which makes me suspicious that any person counting votes could see this and do who knows what with those ballots. It is also an indication to me that our votes are being tracked with our personal identifying information. What’s the point of going into the booth if you have to tell them who you’re planning on voting for? Maybe we should all just post our votes on facebook so everyone can see them since they always ask you in front of a lobby full of people and you have to announce it to everyone around you so they can hear which ballot you want. Here’s an idea, since we know that these elections are skewed by pretentious new laws and outdated laws (the electorate), what would happen if no body voted at all? I’m not saying I won’t vote, I definitely will, because I maintain my childish hope that it actually means something, but what if? What if no one voted at all on November 4th, 2012?

  • Katy Griswold

    To some of this, it is about our vote being anonymous. It’s none of yours or anyone’s business whom anyone votes for, and requiring ID is a way of tracking who/what party a given voter chooses since it must be linked with your vote in order to validate that vote. Besides that, the fact is that the cases of voter fraud are really practically non-existent, and absolutely non an election game changer. Chew on that for a bit.

  • maggie

    We need ID for those things that are not a “right” like SS, food stamps, bank accounts, I won’t give you prescriptions as I have never been asked to show ID to pick one up or drop one off. Voting is a right and supposed to be anonymous. Voter fraud is a smoke screen as there is no substantial proof. You are always asked to sign before you vote and your signature is already present for polling places.

  • Audrey Thayer

    I work for the ACLU-MN (Greater MN Racial Justice Project) in northern rural Minnesota. The voter id issue is frustrating because of lack of education about rural areas, people of different cultures/races, elderly, the disabled and their right to vote. In my work in community in this project for the past eight years I have seen and heard is the negative rumors, lies about races and lack of education in my day job as a community organizer. I also have had the opportunity to do my civil service for our community being an election judge for our state for just as many years. I have seen no fraud. When in doubt about a person, or address, I have asked for verification. Not once as an election judge have I seen people intentionally trying to vote. The necessity of requiring an amendment in our laws is a waste of taxpayers dollars.
    The typical trip to a courthouse in our neck of the woods is often an hour in good weather. People forget about 25 below, cars not starting or the many feet of snow we get on our ground. It is difficult to travel for many people due to age, disability, family obligations, size of family, age of children and poverty to even own a vehicle.
    Within our native community there are elders that were born on the reservation, or rural area and never had birth certificates. There were name changes due to marriage that are not officially recorded. For example, my children all have American Indian names and I gave them common names for school (Susan, Nina, etc) that were not legal and that is what is recorded on their school records. That is what they use. To verify who they really are – this would be a challenge yet everyone knows who they are in their community. There are children born, raised without birth certificates and social security numbers that do not attend public school in this northern part of the state.
    Why do we continue to disenfranschise those that have a right to vote? Did we require identification over the years no! This is a terrible exclusion of our rights.
    Audrey Thayer

  • JonThomas

    DEMOCRATIC Republic!

  • Uninformed NCW

    I understand there are more severe problems, but we were asked to Vote without any information on the individuals that were running in the primary in our half of the State of Washington. The newspaper provided limited info a few days before ballots were to be counted on some!

  • Sandy Bernabei

    Voter Suppression Campaigns are obvious civil right/ human rights obstruction to justice. Florida must be prosecuted and held accountsble for this data- these outcomes!!

    Florida Registered Democrats -From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

    Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.

  • Donna Baranski-Walker

    We would like to join you by providing a mapping tool that we’ve been prototyping. May we connect by phone or email?

  • tata

    In 2008 I tried to vote and I was denied the right to vote just because I was not part of that district. I showed my ID and it was not sufficient. I believe that you should have the right to vote within your state regardless of where you reside as long as you show proof such as state ID or drivers license.

  • MelHal1

    The primaries are specifically so that you vote WITHIN your particular party for the candidate FROM the particular party itself and that party ONLY. The GENERAL election is when you can vote for whomever you want. That is how it is designed. The primary is a PARTY primary. DUH! What is so hard to understand about that? And, the General election this year is NOVEMBER 6!!!

  • MelHal1

    Then why is the state of Ohio blocking the military from being allowed three extra days from getting their absentee ballots in? …. And why are many states delaying sending out the absentee ballots to the military … is it because the military typically votes Republican!!!!

  • Ann

    Yup I couldn’t get valid ID to vote in CO – here’s my story –

  • dmooresb

    My dad voted today. Mom did not. She never received her ballot. Dad said he had called the county registrar several times but got no response.
    He told me today–I called the registrar’s office and was told that her registration status was “pending” because they did not have her birthplace.
    She’s been living at the same address since 1971 and voting in each election. How is it only now that her birthplace became a concern? Why were my parents not notified?
    This is happening in Ventura County, CA.

  • A. T. Acosta

    My father, who I have been caring for since 2009, died this month. His death was sudden and a shock. It wasn’t until this weekend that realized that I have not registered to vote in the county where I live (my parent’s home) and that the last day to register was the 26th. There is no election day voter registration available to me.

  • Anonymous

    Get educated about the difference between a primary and a general election – you sound like Roseanne Rosannadanna. After your long and convoluted dissertation it is clear you are unaware of the difference. Just like there is a difference between a voter . . . and an educated voter.