Colleen Alexander, a resident of Cathedral Village, proudly displays her Cathedral Village photo ID. Alexander didn’t have a state-approved form of Voter ID until Friday, Sept. 21. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

Colleen Alexander, Virginia Trimble, Freda Crave and Isabelle Woodrow are just a few of the 323 residents of Cathedral Village in Andorra who can breathe a sigh of relief now that they have a state-approved form of identification to vote in the November presidential election. Cathedral Village issued all of its residents photo IDs that have an expiration date.

Alexander said she has voted in 100 elections including primaries. As a Democratic committee person for the 21st Ward and an outspoken citizen, she has never missed an opportunity to exercise her constitutional right to vote.

“I had a driver’s license, but it expired last year,” said Alexander, who uses a walker to get around. “Getting to PennDOT would be impossible.”

Alexander said now she has her state-approved ID, she is going to vote “early and often.”

Cathedral Village resident Paul Hensley said for this population it’s not a matter of not wanting to travel to PennDOT offices, but for many it would mean sitting around for hours.

“We have several residents in a nursing home who are quite active mentally but have problems physically who would be deprived of their right to vote,” said Hensley, a Democratic committee person for the 21st Ward. “I encouraged everyone, regardless of whether they have a driver’s license or not, to get a Cathedral Village ID because you don’t know when you will be able to get to the PennDOT center to renew your ID.”

Hensley said the IDs were the result of a “team effort” by Louis Agre, Democratic Leader of the 21st Ward, Dennis Koza, CEO of Cathedral Village, City Commissioner Al Schmidt and several residents of Cathedral Village.

“As a community comprised of residents with diverse backgrounds, varying economic circumstances and lifestyles, one of the things that we all have in common is the need to remain a vibrant part of the greater community,” Koza said. “The ability to participate in the general and national election processes certainly is one significant way of doing just that.”

He said Cathedral Village wanted to make sure all of its residents had an opportunity to vote and that issuing IDs was “a simple way to do that.”

Agre thanked Cathedral Village for making sure everyone got a state-approved ID card.

“It’s not about who you vote for, – the most important thing is that you vote,” Agre said. “We want to make sure everyone can exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Agre who is opposed to the voter ID law added “It’s the only constitutional right that requires you have ID.”

Muriel Anderson, a resident of Cathedral Village, asked Schmidt what the city was doing to ensure that people who are not physically able to get to PennDOT can still exercise their right to vote?

Schmidt said the City Commissioners Office’s “sole responsibility is to run elections in the city and make sure they are honest and that everyone who is registered to vote is able to vote on election day.”

“The Voter ID law presents a problem in making sure everyone who is eligible to vote can,” Schmidt said.

He noted that organizations like the Voter ID Coalition, in conjunction with the city, have launched a “pretty aggressive outreach program.”

Anderson reminded attendees not to forget those who have died working to “preserve our right to vote.”

“Many of those who sit here today can recall how people died in the 60s trying to get people in the South the ability to vote,” Anderson said. “I will never forget the deaths of those three young men: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (Mississippi civil rights workers who were killed by Klansmen for registering African-Americans).

“This is a very erroneous law,” Anderson said.

She added that it threatened the constitutional right that so many of our young servicemen and servicewomen have died for, and that the state wasn’t doing enough to make it easier for people to obtain voter IDs.

Al Spivey, chief of staff for Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., told an audience of about 40 residents that everyone over the age of 65 can vote using an alternative ballot. The only identification required for the alternative ballot is the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number.

“If you know somebody who doesn’t have a valid ID, tell them to vote anyway,” Spivey said. “If you don’t have the proper ID, you have a right as a voter to vote provisionally.”

Voters who forget to bring an ID to the polls in the November General Election can vote by provisional ballot. Their vote will be counted, as long as the voter returns a copy of an acceptable ID and an affirmation letter to their county within six calendar days. Affirmations and copies of ID may be returned to the county in person, by mail, fax or email.

To find out the status of your provisional ballot, call 1-877-VOTESPA.