Voter ID law prompts longtime Center City poll worker to retire

Connie Lyford refuses to enforce Voter ID Act. Yong Kim / Staff photographer
Connie Lyford refuses to enforce Voter ID Act. Yong Kim / Staff photographer
Posted: August 03, 2012

For 35 years, Connie Lyford spent the first Tuesday of every November working a 15-hour day at her Center City polling place, but because of Pennsylvania's new voter-ID law, she's taking this election off.

Lyford, 69, said she's stepping down from her position as a poll worker this year because she refuses to tell people that they can't vote because they lack the proper identification. Lyford cited one example of an elderly neighbor who votes every year in the Academy House, on Locust Street near 15th, who wouldn't be able to vote under the new law.

"There's a little 98-year-old lady that comes down here with her walker, with her aide, and she's been voting here for 35 years," Lyford said Thursday. "I can't sit there and tell her she can't vote, I just can't."

Lyford spoke with the Daily News the same day that a study was released asserting that Philadelphia's minority population will be among the hardest hit by the law. "Pennsylvania's new strict photo-ID requirement may be in effect a racially discriminatory voting procedure," the study reads.

Conducted by the data-mining firm Azavea using data from the City Commissioner's Office, the study showed that those in African-American voting divisions are 85 percent more likely to lack voting credentials than those in mostly white divisions. Those in Hispanic neighborhoods are 108 percent more likely to lack PennDOT IDs.

Also Thursday:

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady expressed concern over Pennsylvania's voter-ID law, telling the Daily News that it disenfranchises students and that "people aren't ready for the law." Brady and other representatives were hosting a summit in Washington on student rights.

Brady said he has sent requests to 6,000 college presidents nationwide for the schools to hold informational meetings for first-year students on voting, to open college campuses up as polling places and to host workshops for students on how to vote as a student. He added that he's working to make sure that college ID cards in Pennsylvania have expiration dates in order to allow them to become valid forms of voting identification.

Said Brady, "If one person gets disenfranchised, it's one too many."

In Harrisburg, a hearing being held to determine whether to block the state's voter-ID law reached its final day as attorneys from the state and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania gave their closing arguments in Commonwealth Court.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley said the ACLU and other groups that provided free legal services to the plaintiffs built their case around an "emotional appeal that plays well to the cameras and those untrained in the law."

The state's attorneys said any major problems involving educating voters about new regulations or providing free IDs should be ironed out by Election Day.

Lawyers trying to prevent the law from taking effect before the Nov. 6 election said it would disenfranchise voters and cause chaos at the polls.

"There's no good reason why this law needs to be in effect in November," said ACLU legal director Vic Walczak.

Judge Robert Simpson said that he would issue his ruling during the week of Aug. 13.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Sean Carlin at 215-854-2148, or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

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