We’re taking up a collection at my office, here at the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, PA, for some of our radio producers and campaigners.
For six years, we’ve believed that the right to speak means little without the right to be heard--and hundreds of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania residents have agreed with us. We’re poor and working people producing media that tells the untold stories of people in Pennsylvania--and developing those people into leaders united to change our city and state. We’re a tight crew, so when folks are having trouble, we come together to help each other out. One young man, Marco (not his real name), is a producer at Radio Unidad, Philadelphia’s only Spanish-language community news show. Andres and Paulita (not their real names) are leaders in another immigrant rights campaign that’s been meeting since January. Even though they work hard, support families, and in many cases own homes and pay taxes--the state has unceremoniously cancelled their drivers’ licenses, saying that the Tax ID numbers they used to get their licenses aren’t proof enough of their right to live in the US.
But they have families to support, and work to do. So they get in their cars and drive-- hoping for the best. But they were stopped by the police, and charged fines of several hundred, up to a thousand dollars, for driving without licenses. They need to drive to work, to pay those fees. And they might get stopped again, and again--and their hard-earned money will go to filling the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s coffers. And that’s what gets me.
As Charlene Carruthers said in her powerful piece on the relationship between voter suppression and reproductive rights, the current fight to make sure that thousands of Pennsylvanians without ID get to vote is important--vital--to making sure that our communities get to the polls to make important decisions on the direction of our state and country. Recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of State, processed and analyzed by the labor federation AFL-CIO, shows that 20 percent of Pennsylvania voters--and 43 percent of Philadelphia voters--might not possess ID valid enough to get them into the voting booth. But we need to understand two things.
First – when states take away ID from poor and working folks, or limit poor and working people’s access to getting ID in the first place – those people lose far more than their right to vote. They often lose their right to work, to bank without exorbitant fees, to get benefits for which they and their family qualify, and, as noted, to drive even though they’ve passed a drivers’ test. They become even more invisible in our society, and state governments and corporations profit off of their struggle to meet their and their families’ daily needs.
And second, when the state limits access to ID and access to society unless you have a valid ID, it also takes away the rights of multiple communities, in many locations in the state, from many different kinds of people who need ID for different reasons. When the electorate is divided--immigrants from citizens, poor from near and new poor, working class from middle class--everyone loses. In order to change that reality, we need to do more than re-empower folks without ID to get their chance to vote... though that matters. First, we need to frame the voter ID fight as one that unites everyone who has lost access to the tools necessary to build a dignified life--no matter where they live and who they are. We need to do the hard movement-building work of uniting poor and working people across rural and urban, race, and origin lines so Pennsylvanians are powerful enough to never lose their right to vote again.
Bringing the voices together: What you lose when you lose your ID
After years of knitting together student, immigrant, low-wage worker, and other communities across Philadelphia with community media production, storytelling, and study and leadership development programs, we trained a team of 30 folks to canvass areas of Philadelphia that probably haven’t had a door knocked by an organizer for a little while. MMP leaders--poor and working people from across the city--fanned out in the neighborhood around 52nd and Sansom, a low-income West Philly area where the city had ordered rolling brownouts and regular closures of local fire stations in an attempt by Mayor Nutter to save money in a growing budget crisis.
We surveyed residents on the struggles they were facing--learning about folks getting by without jobs, without healthcare, with aging relatives or young kids to support. We cared about the context: What did it mean when Philly cuts services in your community, when you’re already going through so much?
As we knocked on doors, we met one gentleman who had served time in prison, but who'd been home, back in his community, for 12 years. For all that time, he hasn’t had an ID.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University has described how recent laws passed in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and a handful of other states will affect the rights of Americans to vote. But the right to vote might be the smallest thing on the minds of people locked out of society without an ID.
Lack of ID: One more blow to the poor
Many of the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States for work didn’t have ID at home, either, because their parents were too poor to secure birth certificates and other documents for them at home. When they travel to the United States for work, they don’t have the consular papers or passports that other immigrants have, and they can’t get GEDs or marry. If deported, they are more likely to be separated from their families.
Ex-offenders find it challenging to get IDs, a necessary first step to applying for and securing a job that allows someone coming home from prison to leave behind street hustles or other ways or making money. As recently as 2007, Michigan parolees were given parole ID cards with a prison photo and ID number, but, according to the Michigan Poverty Law Program, parolees couldn’t use these cards to secure state services, or exchange their ID for a state one.
One Pennsylvania group, Impact Services Corporation, has helped more than 3000 ex-offender Pennsylvanians connect to jobs and more than 1000 get the IDs they need after serving their sentences. But, according to Impact, 35,000 ex-offenders return to Philadelphia alone each year from local, state, or federal prisons. Groups like Impact are helping, but ex-offenders need more. Having an ID is the first step.
(Oh, and of course, ex-offenders have the right to vote in Pennsylvania, but if they can’t get IDs, now they really can’t vote).
Residents without ID are locked out of affordable digital access and all the deals and purchasing power online access provides. Comcast, the cable, broadband, voice over IP phone and NBC content company, rules the roost in Philly, where it is headquartered here and serves as the major telecom provider. But in order to get Comcast service, you need to have a credit history (hard to establish without valid ID), pay a large deposit, or prove who you are at a Comcast Service Center with a social security number or driver’s license. Without online access, poor and working people also don’t have access to many of the tools that allow people to get out of poverty. It’s hard to research scholarships for school, job opportunities, and available government benefits if you can't get online. You can’t even get a MegaBus ticket for the most affordable advertised price of $1, find inexpensive hotels or plane tickets (not that you could get on a plane or into a hotel without ID), or invest hard earned money to make it work for you.
Without ID: A shared struggle of millions of poor and working people in the US
Some of the folks in Pennsylvanis who don’t have ID are undocumented immigrants. Some are people who’ve served their time. Others are seniors who have never needed papers to prove who they were in towns where they raised children and grandchildren. More are folks who have reason to distrust a system increasingly interested in asking residents for papers, or folks who had ID and haven’t gotten a chance to get it renewed. But most importantly, when State Representative Mike Turzai said that requiring voter ID would allow Governor Romney to win the state, he likely wasn’t just thinking of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; and he probably wasn’t just thinking about the top of the ticket. Pennsylvania has kept an overwhelming Republican majority in the State Senate for over ten years, and a majority Republican house since 2010, a majority they aim to increase and solidify, by isolating poor and working people from each other.
While unemployed people in Philadelphia are primarily people of color, 75 percent of those without jobs in the rest of the state are white, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. And according to estimates made based on the 2010 Census, more rural people than urban residents are poor (14.2 percent percent instead of 13.2 percent, and that’s just according to the stingy federal definitions of poverty.
We need to fight against this voter ID law. And we need to win. But media messages and government policies have divided us in the cities from our natural community in smaller cities and rural areas in this state and in this country. What does uniting across these geographies, and across race and color lines, look like?
Carmen Cuadrado lives in a North Philly community that the city of Philadelphia calls “blighted.” When she saw her neighbors lose their homes for pennies on the dollar, she joined with Rosemary Cubas’ Community Leadership Institute to save her neighbors’ homes. “I joined Community Leadership Institute because I knew that it was needed in the area,” says Carmen, “And I’d seen that redevelopment was just a way of moving us—the low income families—out of our neighborhood.”
After years of learning and leading at MMP, Carmen is now a member of our Executive Committee. As part of our listening and storytelling campaign, she travelled with other MMP leaders across the state to collect stories that show how much our struggles have in common. They met with residents of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania’s Riverdale Village Mobile Home Park, 37 families that are being evicted from their community to make way for a water extraction plant that will supply natural gas fracking operations.
“Now that I own my own place... now, I’m losing it,” said Amber Daniels in the video MMP produced with this community. “For once in my life, and now I’ve got to give it up, either go live in a camper, or under a bridge. Where else do you have to go?”
In talking together, Carmen, other MMP members, and Jersey Shore leaders saw that poor homeowners in North Philly and rural trailer park communities in central PA had something powerful in common. MMP and other groups in Pennsylvania--and in other states across the country--are working to bring us together as a true 99 percent. While we must invest now in the struggle to make sure that we can vote, consider the power we will wield when thousands, millions of votes each represent an informed, powerful person united with their brothers and sisters. We are working to see ourselves as a class of people who, united, can make sure that no state government ever has the power to take away our right to vote--or to live in dignity--again.
Link to original article from RH Reality Check
Most people already know or sense that Pennsylvania has dropped from 8th to 47th in job creation under Corbett. That’s an important issue that Corbett lies about in this campaign mailer.
The real message in this mailer is subliminal. “The effectiveness of subliminal messaging has been demonstrated to prime individual responses and stimulate mild emotional activity.” – Wikipedia
The images of Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf are several shades darker than the images of President Obama in this Republican mailer. The reality is that Wolf’s skin color is much lighter than Obama’s.
Randy Shannon | Beaver County Blue 05 Oct 2014 Hits:586 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania officials have refused to disclose information that freight railroads provide about shipments of volatile crude oil through the state.
In the wake of several fiery accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation in May issued an emergency order requiring railroads to report to state emergency management officials the number of trains carrying oil from the Bakken Shale formation in the Midwest and the routes of the shipments.
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A federal district court judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, handing gay rights advocates their second legal victory in as many days.
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“[W]e hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the...
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Bucks County activists hung a cease and desist order outside Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick's Langhorne office.
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James Boyle| Levittown Patch 16 Oct 2013 Hits:573 Pennsylvania
A liberal group based in Harrisburg will fan out across the state and into the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday to try to put pressure on Republicans in Congress toward ending the federal government shutdown.
Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, said hundreds of people will place "cease and desist" posters outside the district offices of House Republicans, placing the blame on them.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has called the protest a partisan stunt that ignores efforts by Pennsylvania's GOP House members to end the impasse. While Keystone Progress prepared for the...
Ben Finley | Philadelphia Inquirer 16 Oct 2013 Hits:522 Pennsylvania
Sometimes it's the thought that counts.
A "cease and desist" order Roger Lund delivered to the Gettysburg office of Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, doesn't carry any legal weight, but Lund said the message behind the order is the whole point.
Lund and a group of about 80 Adams County residents delivered the letter around 11:30 Tuesday morning, about two days before the nation was set to default on its debts.
There's a national crisis that, according to Lund and his group, was caused by a small group of extremists in the House...
Christina Kaufman | York Dispatch 16 Oct 2013 Hits:614 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania voters will not have to show photo identification at the polls until the Commonwealth Court makes a final decision in the lawsuit challenging the controversial law. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley issued an order on August 16th extending the preliminary injunction of the voter ID law until the trial court makes a decision on a permanent injunction. That decision, which is separate from today’s ruling, is not expected until later this year. “We are very pleased that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters will be able to cast...
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“In the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.”
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They just won't quit, will they? The New Castle News (where I get most of my information these days*) is reporting that Harrisburg legislative powerhouse Sen. Dominic Pileggi has yet another scheme in which Pennsylvania would award a number of electoral votes to the losing candidate under a system not used in any of the other 49 states.
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Last month, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus called up “states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red” to rig future presidential elections by changing the way electoral votes are allocated. Under Priebus’ proposal, blue states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would stop awarding electoral votes to the winner of the state as a whole, and instead would award them one-by-one to the winner of each congressional district. Meanwhile, red states would continue to award 100 percent of their...
Ian Milhiser | Think Progress - Justice 04 Feb 2013 Hits:997 Pennsylvania
Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the deed of trust establishing the Milton Hershey School as an orphanage in 1909, funding it with revenue from the famous candy company. Since then, the school has officially been dedicated to “the purpose of nurturing and educating children in need.” Because its founder gave MHS Trust a controlling interest in the Hershey Company, today it boasts a massive $8.5 billion in assets and also owns Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (operating hotels and an amusement park). In keeping...
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One September night in the western Pennsylvania borough of Monaca, a disillusioned resident told a labor canvasser that he’d once “backed all of the Democrats all the way through,” only to realize “both sides” were “really full of shit.” Then he said something I heard often during my week in the region: “If all these factories were still running here, we’d all still have jobs.”
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HARRISBURG -- A judge has blocked the state from discounting ballots cast next month by voters who lack the photo identification required under the new voter ID law.
Voters will be asked for their identification at the polls, but will vote by normal procedures and their vote will count regardless of whether they have an ID, according to officials on both sides of the case.
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Karen Langley | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02 Oct 2012 Hits:714 Pennsylvania
A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday postponed the enforcement of the state's new strict voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.
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Dan Froomkin | Huffington Post 02 Oct 2012 Hits:825 Pennsylvania
Commonwealth promises that this time they really, really mean it when they say every voter will be able to get ID.
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The biggest news of the trial (also announced in...
Sara Mullen, Associate Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania 26 Sep 2012 Hits:893 Pennsylvania
Earlier this week, every single sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice rejected a lower court decision allowing that state’s voter ID law to take effect. Four justices joined a majority opinion requiring the lower court judge to look at the case again due to concerns that voters were unable to obtain the IDs they were supposed to have easy access to as a matter of law, and two more justices joined a dissent arguing that the law should simply be suspended right away. Three of the justices in...
Ian Millhiser | Think Progress Justice 22 Sep 2012 Hits:1188 Pennsylvania
State Supreme Court sends decision back to lower court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday has ordered the lower court to revisit its decision in the controversial voter ID law, which voting rights advocates have said would have disenfranchised as many as 750,000.
The ruling stated:
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Common Dreams Staff | Common Dreams 19 Sep 2012 Hits:1037 Pennsylvania
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Matt Bevilacqua | Next American City 12 Sep 2012 Hits:4125 Pennsylvania
Two government offices, three hour-long lines, two 78-mile trips, two week-long waiting periods, four forms of identity and two signed affidavits later, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to vote.
Under the state's new voter ID laws,, which require every voter to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, that is the epic process thousands of native Pennsylvanians have to go through to get the ID required to cast their ballots in November. And they now have just 56 days to complete it before the...
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The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania today announced that its entire Sept. 13 oral argument session, which includes hearings on the state’s second legislative redistricting plan and the voter ID law, will be televised live on PCN. The hearings are being held in the court’s Philadelphia City Hall courtroom.
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Posted every few miles on the river's banks were groups of protestors, challenging the governor's pro-drilling policy with signs and chants.
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Nora Eisenberg | AlterNet 24 Aug 2012 Hits:1245 Pennsylvania
On Wednesday, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and ACTION United entered a Court approved Settlement Agreement with the Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of…
On Wednesday, in a closely watched case, a state judge in Pennsylvania declined to block the state’s controversial voter ID law from taking effect. If the ruling is upheld on…
A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday declined to block a new state law requiring specific kinds of photo identification to vote. Liberal groups, arguing that minorities and the poor…
We’re taking up a collection at my office, here at the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, PA, for some of our radio producers and campaigners.
For six years, we’ve believed that…
As states fight to implement voter ID laws in time for the November election, it is becoming glaringly obvious that the current election system cannot handle the added burden…
“Did he [President Obama] not get the message in Wisconsin [the June 5 recall vote]? [He wants] more firemen, more policemen, [and] more teachers. The American people did.…
Today, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and ACTION United filed suit against Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary D. Alexander and Secretary…
The impact of Pennsylvania’s new Voter-ID law could be much wider-reaching than the state’s Republican officials claimed when passing the bill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
In fact, over 758,000 registered voters in…
Philadelphia City Council, by a vote of 15-2, passed today a resolution "calling on the U.S. Congress to bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, to take the funds saved…
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