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Originally published Friday, August 17, 2012 at 5:17 PM

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Pa. voter-ID plaintiff finally gets card

Viviette Applewhite, 93, had trouble meeting Pennsylvania's documentation requirements to get a photo ID. For one thing, she did not have a Social Security card.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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PHILADELPHIA — The day after a judge upheld Pennsylvania's new voter-identification law, the lead plaintiff in the suit seeking to block the law went to a state Department of Transportation office and was issued the photo-ID card she needs to vote.

Nothing has changed since Viviette Applewhite, 93, testified in July. The law stands. She still doesn't have a driver's license or Social Security card; the latter was stolen with her purse some years ago, she has said.

The name on her birth certificate is still different from the name on her other documents — all of which, under the law, should have barred her from getting her photo ID.

But Thursday, she got it anyway. "You just have to keep trying," said Applewhite, who uses an electric wheelchair. "Don't give up."

State officials called it an unplanned exercise in what they've been saying for weeks: Clerks at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation centers can take age and other factors into consideration when granting exceptions to the list of documents the law requires, licensing-bureau director Janet Dolan said.

Dolan could not explain why Applewhite had been rejected before.

PennDOT's 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 said the card is required. Applewhite's lawyers said she has been attempting to obtain a PennDOT-issued ID card for years.

Applewhite — who rode two buses to get to the center — showed the clerk a Medicare card from the 1990s, its edges frayed. It listed her Social Security number, but only the last seven digits were visible.

A state Department of Public Welfare document showed her name, signature and Social Security number — but all in her own handwriting. Other documents showed her street address in the city's Germantown section. She had no documents verifying the Viviette Virene Brooks listed on her birth certificate was the same person as the Viviette Applewhite applying for an ID.

A thrilled Applewhite returned to her apartment after about an hour at the PennDOT office and showed off her new ID. "I got it, Miss Cunningham," she told a neighbor. "I fought and got my rights."

Knowing she will be able to vote Nov. 6 is a comfort: "I'll be able to ... go to sleep at night, not worry about this mess," she said.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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