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Photo ID clinic in north St. Louis to help people obtain identification to vote

The Ashrei Foundation hosted a Photo ID Clinic in north St. Louis last month to help people obtain a birth certificate or a state-issued photo ID.
The Ashrei Foundation
The Ashrei Foundation hosted a photo ID clinic in north St. Louis last month to help people obtain a birth certificate or a state-issued photo ID.

A St. Louis economic justice organization is hosting a photo identification clinic Saturday at the Hub in north St. Louis to help Missourians in low-income areas obtain a birth certificate or a photo identification card.

Volunteers with the Ashrei Foundation will discuss how to get proper state identification documentation from government agencies for housing applications, employment and particularly to vote in the upcoming election.

There are many barriers to accessing a photo ID card or a birth certificate because each document has its own process, which can be complicated and time consuming, said Sara Ruiz, the foundation’s executive director.

“For someone who is working multiple jobs, who can't take time off, who maybe doesn't have money to pay the bus to get to where they need to go, is going to make some really hard choices and sacrifices in order to get there so that they can exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Ruiz said.

Once clinic volunteers go over with residents the process of how to retrieve a birth certificate or a state- issued non-driver ID card, they will provide an informational packet that will include next steps. The foundation will cover the cost of the birth certificate or ID if residents are not eligible to receive a free state-issued ID. It also will provide transportation funds to help people to and from local state agencies or a Missouri motor vehicle location.

The foundation adopted the clinic model from St. Louis’ St. Francis Xavier College Church, which began helping residents of low-income areas, disabled and aging people and underserved communities get birth certificates or photo IDs nearly 30 years ago.

Ruiz said the photo ID clinic is especially important now that a new Missouri law requires people to have a state-issued photo ID to vote in any election. Student IDs, voter registration cards, an expired ID or a driver’s license from another state are no longer accepted at the polls.

Voting rights advocates say the new law will affect Missourians of color and low-income residents the most because they face the most challenges with voting.

“Many people lack access to a DMV office. Many are not open evenings, or weekends, which makes it very difficult for low wage workers or shift workers to get to a DMV office during the business hours when they're open,” said Denise Lieberman, director and general counsel of the Missouri Voters Protection Coalition.

She said communities of color, senior citizens, parents who lack child care and people with disabilities are least likely to have an identification card and will not go out of their way to retrieve one, which also hinders them from voting.

They need to get help in the communities where they live, by community members they know and trust,” Lieberman said. “That's why these regional clinics are so needed and so important to being able to talk to voters and help make sure that they understand what the rules are and that they have the assistance that they need to get those IDs.”

The foundation also is working with St. Francis Xavier College Church on Sept. 12 to virtually train volunteers on ways to help residents retrieve documents needed to vote and teach people how to develop and launch their own community photo ID clinic.

“I think when you look at a Missouri legislature that has enacted laws, responding to problems that don't exist, in order to silence voices that they don't want to hear, then those are exactly the intersections of democracy and faith that in which we are called to stand,” Ruiz said.

The north St. Louis photo ID clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 3000 E. Prairie Ave. Walk-ins are welcomed.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.