(Photo: Courtesy of The Advancement Project)
Lorene Hutchins, a 93-year-old former poll worker, was one of the witnesses who testified earlier this week at a trial challenging Wisconsin's restrictive photo ID law. The lawsuit was brought by the Advancement Project and the law firm Arnold & Porter. The ACLU also is challenging the law.
Hutchins was born at home in Lee County, Mississippi, because hospitals in the state at the time would not provide medical services to African-Americans. As a result, there was no certificate recording her birth. Her daughter, Katherine Clark, spent years and more than $2,000 to get a birth certificate for her mother and herself.
"I feel there is a strategy to keep minorities and older people from voting. Most of us who migrated to Northern states do not have birth certificates, a prerequisite for obtaining the photo ID required to vote," Hutchins testified. "I've been voting since the 1940s when I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It would be devastating to lose the right to vote now, after all of these years."
Hutchins fears that minorities, and in particular, seniors who don't have the time, money or a daughter like hers, will be barred from voting if the state's law is allowed to go into effect.
Witnesses at the hearing included other people who do not have birth certificates for different reasons, including being delivered by midwives, and as a result are unable to obtain a state-issued voter ID card.
"The states that are passing restrictions on voting are not trying to stop fraud," said Advancement Project co-director Penda Hair. "They're trying to stop certain communities, namely seniors, students and people of color, from voting."
The Advancement Project and co-counsel intend to prove that Black and Latino voters disproportionately lack the required identification and that, for many, getting it can be "difficult, costly or impossible." They also aim to show that the state has experienced virtually no in-person voter fraud.
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