PHILADELPHIA — PHILADELPHIA — Cheryl Ann Moore stepped into the state's busiest driver's licensing center, got a ticket with the number C809 on it and a clipboard with a pen attached by rubber band, and began her long wait Thursday to become a properly documented voter.
Six blocks away, inside an ornate and crowded City Hall courtroom, a lawyer was arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the state's controversial new voter-ID law would strip citizens of their rights and should be enjoined. Just outside, on Thomas Paine Plaza, the NAACP president was inveighing against a modern-day poll tax at a boisterous rally of a few hundred opponents.
Moore bent over a folding table and carefully filled out the form a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worker had given her, in the first line she would stand in that day. Her ticket was time-stamped 11:38 a.m. and gave an estimated wait time of 63 minutes, which, said Moore, didn't seem so bad.
She had been registered to vote since she was 19, and now she was 54.
"I'm on vacation this week," she said, "so I thought, 'Let me just get this done now,' because by the time we get to November, you won't be able to get in this place."
She looked around. Nearly all of the 200 plastic chairs in the long room were filled with her fellow citizens — people trying to get licenses to drive mixed in with people trying to get licenses to vote. The bin on the wall that held applications for the "Pa. voting ID" was empty.
When the state's legislature in March enacted one of the toughest ID laws in the nation, with the support of no Democrats and all but three Republicans, Gov. Tom Corbett, R, said it would "prevent people from cheating in our elections" in a state where Democrats have a registration advantage of 1.1 million people. The Republican majority leader, Mike Turzai, then boasted that the new law "is going to allow Governor Romney to win" the state, which inflamed an already charged debate.