84-Year-Old Women: Pepper-Sprayed and Losing Right to Vote

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Dorli Rainey (photo: Joshua Trujillo, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Dorli Rainey of Seattle, Washington, and Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw, Wisconsin, have something unusual in common—each, at the age of 84, suffered at the hands of their government for trying to practice their constitutional rights.
Rainey is the more famous of the two octogenarians. Her milky-face image went viral last month after police pepper sprayed her during an Occupy Seattle protest. But her activism long preceded the Occupy movement, which is why she was honored last weekend at a large community gathering that helped celebrate her 85th birthday. Speakers noted the many times Rainey has spoken out or gotten involved in causes, whether it was protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or running a grass-roots campaign for mayor.
Frank, on the other hand, isn’t an activist. But she’s gained media attention for being a victim of Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, which goes into effect in February. A resident of Brokaw since her birth in 1927, Frank has no photo ID which would qualify at a polling place, even though she has voted in every election since 1948. And she can’t get a photo ID because she has no birth certificate, having been born at home 84 years ago.
Frank has a baptismal certificate and the state Register of Deeds has a record of her birth, but on it her parents’ names are misspelled. This means she would have to get it corrected before she could use the record to get an ID—and getting the record amended would force her to pay to reinstate her right to vote.
-Noel Brinkerhoff

Out in the Cold at Age 84: Wisconsin's Ruthelle Frank Fights for Her Right to Vote (American Civil Liberties Union) 


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