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The face of the 'war on voting'

When it comes to Pennsylvania Republicans' voter-suppression tactics, perhaps the most notable victim is Viviette Applewhite, whom we were introduced to several months ago.

Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil-rights movement, has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century. This year, however, her own state told her she wouldn't be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that doesn't exist. Applewhite might have had a shot at participating in her own democracy, but purse was stolen, and she no longer has the materials she never needed to vote before.

She worked with the ACLU to challenge the law, and yesterday, Pennsylvania caved -- but just for Applewhite.

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 PennDot 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 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 at precisely 1:16 p.m. Thursday, she got it anyway.

Pennsylvania apparently showed some "flexibility" in Applewhite's case, bending the rules to accommodate her circumstances. And to be sure, I'm delighted.

But what about folks who didn't become notable public victims in the GOP's war on voting? Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair said in a statement, "The news of Mrs. Applewhite receiving an ID is a happy surprise and we are very pleased that she will be able to vote in the upcoming election.... We wonder if that would be the case for someone who wasn't a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit and the subject of a lot of attention in the press."

Incidentally, we talked the other day about the Republican judge in Pennsylvania who ruled that the voter-suppression law can remain in place, but there's a pertinent detail that I neglected to mention.

[Judge Robert Simpson] said he took at face value promises by state officials that they would get ID cards into the hands of the vast majority of residents who needed them by Election Day, that they would carry out a broad outreach campaign and that those with manifest difficulties would be able to vote through a provisional or an absentee ballot.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups opposed to the law said the judge was taking too much on faith. Forms for alternate identification have not been finalized, and staffing of public agencies dealing with such things has not been increased. They also said absentee-ballot rules in Pennsylvania are stricter than Judge Simpson implied.

So, the entire basis for the court ruling is that Pennsylvania officials will have the logistics of this completely under control, but the state still doesn't have uniform rules and doesn't have the time or personnel to process all the paperwork. The Republican judge simply ignored these details. Why? Just because.

What a complete fiasco.