Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Voter ID Story

Fishtown’s Margaret Megill is 85 and needed a voter ID. Luckily, her daughter Margie Megill had the time and patience to help her get one. Because here’s how their day unfolded:

A Voter ID Story

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Fishtown’s Margaret Megill is 85 and needed a voter ID. Luckily, her daughter Margie Megill had the time and patience to help her get one. Because here’s how their day unfolded:

Margie downloads the Voter ID form from Penndot’s website and fills it out for Margaret. They drive to the PennDot center on Columbus Blvd, armed with Margaret’s birth certificate, Social Security and two bills proving Margaret’s address is legit.

At PennDot, an employee at the info desk tells them they have the wrong form. He gives them two new forms to fill out.

The PennDot office is very crowded. The women wait an hour for their turn with a clerk.

The clerk throws away the new forms they were given to fill out, saying the downloaded form was fine in the first place. She searches PennDot’s data base for Margaret’s prior driver’s license – if it can be found, the voter ID can be issued almost immediately. But she can't find it in the data base.

She says PennDot will need a copy of Margaret’s husband’s death certificate, since Margaret’s birth certificate shows Margaret’s maiden name, not her married name. She tells Margaret and Margie that, if they go home and get the document and return quickly, they won’t have to wait in line again when they return.

Margaret and Margie drive to Fishtown. Miraculously, the death certificate is easily located. Thanksfully, it lists Margaret's maiden name and married in the space marked "spouse." They return to PennDot. It is even more crowded than it was when they left. They look for their clerk, so they won’t have to wait.

The clerk is at lunch.

They are told she might be back “soon” but no one really knows. Margaret and Margie are about to leave when a very nice supervisor directs them to a counter where they are serviced immediately. This clerk, unlike the first one, locates Margaret’s former driver’s license in the data base. Margaret won’t need the death certificate after all, since the prior license is proof enough of who she is.

While Margaret is finalizing her voter ID, Margie notices that the supervisor is quietly locating the elderly and handicapped people waiting for service and escorting them to clerks for faster service. She is impressed by his kindness and compassion.

“He turned a frustrating experience into something almost pleasant,” Margie says.

Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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