Citizen Stories


Raymond Rutherford

Like many in the pre-Civil Rights-era South, Raymond Rutherford was born in his home in Sumter County, South Carolina. The midwife who delivered him misspelled his first name and put his mother's maiden name as his last name on his birth certificate. His voter registration card, tax returns and pay stubs all bear his correct name. Because of the discrepancy between these records and his birth certificate, Raymond couldn’t get the ID he needed to vote without obtaining a delayed birth certificate. In order to secure a delayed birth certificate, Raymond would need the services of an attorney, which he certainly couldn't afford. Fortunately for Raymond, he was able to get help from Dr. Brenda Williams’ organization, The Family Unit, a nonprofit whose mission includes the encouragement of voter participation. Obtaining a delayed birth certificate can take many months, even years. Like the other citizens we've highlighted, Raymond has voted in every election since he turned 18.

Luckily for Raymond, South Carolina's voter ID law was suspended until 2013 so he was able to vote last month.


Meet Laura. She reached out to VoteRiders for help to obtain identification she needed to vote. Laura recently moved to Indiana from California. She is divorced and kept her married name as her legal name. She has a birth certificate, social security card, a United States Department of Veterans Affairs ID, a divorce decree and a California photo ID. When Laura sought her Indiana state ID, she was refused because the last name on her birth certificate doesn’t match the last name on her other documents. The state is requiring Laura to produce a marriage certificate to follow the thread from her maiden name to the name she legally and currently uses.  


A 53-year-old with a debilitating case of rheumatoid arthritis needed an ID for voting. Delivered by a midwife in the South, her birth was not officially reported to the state. So it’s necessary to create a “delayed” birth certificate: an expensive, complicated and time-consuming process. While her illness makes it excruciatingly uncomfortable to be mobile, she endured four, hours-long trips to PennDOT (Pennsylvania’s DMV).

Contrary to the PA Department of State’s voter helpline advice, she learned during her first visit that she did indeed need to produce a birth certificate; her second visit, when the state’s voter ID requirements lessened, was unsuccessful for lack of her social security card; her third visit yielded false information that she needed to present a voter registration card; on the fourth visit she finally obtained the Voter Only ID card.

Marcela M.

Where as most of you were born here I arrived with my parents (legally) at the age of 9. I chose as an adult to become a citizen in order to vote. It was very important for me to show my sons the example because their Great-Grandmother, an African American woman born in 1888, showed up to vote for every single election from the time she was 18. Living in Texas, she was always turned away; yet she walked to vote each and every time regardless of the wheather or her health or state of pregnancy.