"The illusion with this law," Sutter points out, "is that it's just about stopping fraud and keeping illegal aliens from voting."
Sutter testified in court late last month in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. She's followed the case - which could be decided as early as Monday - as closely as anyone might when facing the loss of a constitutional right.
"I know I could convince a jury of 12 peers beyond a reasonable doubt that I am who I am," Sutter tells me from her home in East Falls. But so far, neither PennDot nor the Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees about her identity.
"They tell me I don't exist."
A nickname for life
Sutter was born in Queens in 1951. "My birth name is Christine," she shares, "but my sister couldn't say that. She called me Tia. So everyone called me Tia."
Sutter's 1960s-era Social Security card was issued to Tia Sutter. Her 1983 diploma from Boston College Law School and bar-exam certificate both read Tia Christine Sutter.
"It doesn't get any more legal than your law degree," she reasons. "They didn't ask for a photo ID."
Working as a prosecutor from 1983 to 1995, Sutter appeared in The Inquirer and Daily News 29 times. She graced the front page of this newspaper Thursday, Feb. 12, 1987, talking about chronic backlogs in the court system.
Long registered to vote as Tia Sutter, the only "official" photographic evidence of that woman's existence consists of a 1977 Hunter College ID and a badge - bearing her name, date of birth, height, weight, and Ed Rendell's signature - from a 1982 D.A.'s Office internship.
"Does the photo look like you?" the ACLU lawyer asked in court.
Sutter's reply? "I wish."
Rendell couldn't recall his former employee when I call but hopes the judge weighing the law's fate will be swayed by stories like hers.
"If he's totally honest and fearless," Rendell tells me, "he'll throw the thing out."
The name game
Unable to locate her Social Security card, Sutter showed PennDot officials her Medicare card, thinking it would suffice since it came from the SSA and has the 9-digit number embossed on the front. No dice.
"They told me to go to the Social Security office to get a new card."
So off she went, only to again have the Medicare card rejected. "They told me they would have accepted a Medicaid card," Sutter puzzles. "Why, I don't know."
At the same time, Sutter attempted to get a copy of her birth certificate with a raised seal, only to be shot down because the name on her bank card (Tia Sutter) didn't match the name on the birth certificate (Christine Sutter).
"Everywhere I turn," she says, "I run into the same problem: 'Your birth certificate name and your Social Security name don't match. And we need them to match or we can't give you any documents pertaining to either of them.' "
After she testified, Sutter remained so frustrated about her plight that she resigned herself to legally changing her name to Tia. But to file the petition and get before a judge, she needs a Social Security card and proper photo ID confirming she's Christine.
And of course, she has neither.
"If I had those documents," she sighs, "I wouldn't have to change my name."
Contact Monica Yant Kinney
at 215-854-4670, firstname.lastname@example.org or @myantkinney on Twitter.