Are you one of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters who lack the type of photo identification required by the state’s voter ID law? If your son is a rich cable news personality with a big Twitter following, the state of Pennsylvania is on the case.
As TPM reported earlier, CNBC’s Jim Cramer tweeted on Tuesday morning that his father — a World War II veteran named Ken — would lose the ability to vote under the state voter ID law because he “does not drive, he is elderly, and can’t prove his citizenship.”
Less than seven hours later, the “Mad Money” host tweeted that authorities with Pennsylvania’s transportation office “came directly to the rescue” of his father.
So how did it happen so fast? Needless to say, the reach of the younger Cramer, who has more than a half million Twitter followers and a net worth reportedly in the tens of millions of dollars, had a lot to do with it.
Jan McKnight of the Pennsylvania Department of Transporation told TPM that a fellow staffer alerted her to Cramer’s tweet with an email. McKnight was then able to contact Cramer’s publicist. The publicist gave Cramer’s family a phone number for McKnight.
“I can’t go into the details because of privacy issues, but we were able to help him,” McKnight told TPM. She also said she has helped other people get IDs after reading accounts of their struggles in the news.
McKnight said the agency recently began offering a “safety net” form of photo identification, which is given to voters lack a birth certificate but have a Social Security number. The agency issued 472 of those IDs from the first day they were available on Aug. 27 through Sept. 7. PennDOT’s Philadelphia branch alone issued 286 of them.
Besides transportation officials, a congressional staffer also reached out to Cramer on Tuesday and offered to help the cable host’s father. The staffer never got a response. But he later said the case was another example of the problems created by the rush to enact restrictive voting laws.
“Cases like Mr. Cramer’s show that ID laws are about disenfranchising eligible voters, not preventing fraud,” staffer Gregory Abbott told TPM. “Many don’t yet realize that its affecting them or someone they know.”
Abbott works for Democrats in the House Administration Committee. He said even Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA), the ranking Democrat on the committee, had trouble getting adequate photo identification for one if the congressman’s own parents.
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law was upheld by a Republican judge last month. It will go before the state Supreme Court on Thursday. Justice Department officials are also investigating whether the law is discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.
The state has admitted that more than 750,000 registered voters lack an adequate form of state-issued photo identification. That number grows when registered voters with expired licenses are included. Pennsylvania has been running an educational campaign to inform voters of the new identification requirements, a push that includes an ad tying photo identification to patriotism.