Written by Tanya Somanader
For 63 years, Brokaw, Wisconsin native Ruthelle Frank went to the polls to vote. Though paralyzed on her left side since birth, the 84-year-old “fiery woman” voted in every election since 1948 and even got elected herself as a member of the Brokaw Village Board. But because of the state’s new voter ID law, 2012 will be the first year Frank can’t vote. Born after a difficult birth at her home in 1927, Frank never received an official birth certificate. Her mother recorded it in her family Bible and Frank has a certification of baptism from a few months later, along with a Social Security card, a Medicare statement, and a checkbook. But without the official document, she can’t secure the state ID card that the new law requires to vote next year.
“It’s really crazy,” she added. “I’ve got all this proof. You mean to tell me that I’m not a U.S. citizen?” But state officials have informed Frank that, because the state Register of Deeds does have a record of her birth, they can issue her a new birth certificate — for a fee. And because of a spelling error, that fee may be as high as $200:
Though Frank never had a birth certificate, the state Register of Deeds in Madison has a record of her birth. It can generate a birth certificate for her — for a fee. Normally, the cost is $20.
“I look at that like paying a fee to vote,” Frank said.
And for Frank, that might not be the end of it. The attending physician at Frank’s birth misspelled her maiden name, which was Wedepohl. To get a birth certificate that has correct information, she will have to petition a court to amend the document — a weeks-long process that could cost $200 or more.
The State Vital Records Division advised frank to just pay the $20 for an incorrect birth certificate and cross her fingers that the DMV accepts it. “If she gets [the state ID], great!” officials said in an email. If not, they said “she can begin the lengthy, potentially costly process of getting the document fixed. Then she can return to the DMV and try again.”
Another state official suggested Frank claim she is “indefinitely confined,” a category that would grant her an exception under the law. “That would be real voter fraud,” said Frank. “I go down to the Village Hall for meetings. I get around ok.” She added, “I don’t want to be a liar” and “that would be lying.”
“It’s just stupid,” Frank said of the situation. A stupidity that numerous citizens like 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper and 86-year-old Darwin Spinks face on account of their own state’s voter ID restrictions. In Wisconsin, one study noted that “an estimated 177,399 Wisconsin residents 65 and older do not have a driver’s license or state photo ID — 23 percent of that population. The study estimated that another 98,247 residents ages 35 through 64 lack IDs,” particularly among minorities.
Thus, unfortunately, Frank does not face disenfranchisement alone. “I feel for other people out there” who don’t have the necessary IDs or certificates, Frank said. “I think they just won’t vote.”
This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.
Photo from Denise Cross via flickr