When the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and other legal advocates were looking for individual plaintiffs who wished to participate in their challenge to Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law, they turned to law centers that work in the trenches with low-income, disabled and other disadvantaged clients. One such site is the Face to Face Legal Center, a nonprofit law clinic located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia that, under varying names, has been providing for more than 20 years free legal services to low-income clients living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
As the ACLU and PILCOP knew, one of the many services that the center provides is help in procuring birth certificates and legal identification. As volunteer attorneys at the center quickly learn, a significant number of the clients coming to the center arrive because they lack legal identification. Without such ID, they cannot open up bank accounts for direct deposit of their disability checks or access various other benefits and opportunities that are key to their survival, such as low-income utility programs and federal housing benefits. For those low-income clients looking for work, the need for proper identification is essential, as most employers also now require legal ID of all those seeking employment. However, obtaining legal identification, and particularly photo ID, can be extremely difficult and in some cases is nearly impossible.
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