Hat-tip to Pith In The Wind, which alerts us to this Chattanooga Times-Free Press article about 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper, who was denied a photo ID which under Tennessee’s new voter ID law she is required to have in order to vote:

The retired domestic worker was born in a small North Georgia town before women had the right to vote. She began casting ballots in her 20s after moving to Chattanooga for work. She missed voting for John F. Kennedy in 1960 because a move to Nashville prevented her from registering in time.

So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new state law she’d need a photo ID to vote next year, she talked with a volunteer about how to get to a state Driver Service Center to get her free ID. But when she got there Monday with an envelope full of documents, a clerk denied her request.

That morning, Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.

“But I didn’t have my marriage certificate,” Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

This woman was able to vote under Jim Crow, but not under the Tennessee Republican legislature. Let that one sink in for a minute.

Oh, and she has a photo ID! Just not one that meets the standards of the State of Tennessee because as I noted earlier, some forms of ID are more equal than others. She has a voter registration card. She has a Social Security card. She has all of her papers except the one thing the Tennessee Republican Party demands she have to exercise her right to vote:

“I’ve been banking at SunTrust for a long time,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll say, well, do you have a Social Security card?”

And she shows it to them. She also has a photo ID issued by the Chattanooga Police Department to all seniors who live in the Boynton Terrace public housing complex, but that won’t qualify for voting.

Shame on Tennessee’s Republican legislature for this blatant abuse of power. Shame on every one of you, crooks and liars to a man and to a woman. You people who can’t get elected unless you erect barriers to the democratic process and deny people their rights? You folks who claim you are “small government” conservatives but use government to erect a wall between senior citizens and the voting booth?

Two words: Fuck you.


Legal question: I know this voter ID law is being challenged (as have others around the country) on a variety of grounds: de facto poll tax, etc. But I just wonder: voting is a right; driving is a privilege. Is there some legal mushiness here, requiring a person to have a form of ID needed to exercise a privilege to exercise a right?

Just wondering if anyone knows. It always annoys me when conservatives say, “You need a license to drive! Well what about that! Huh! HUH?!” But driving is not the same as voting.


There has been lots of pushback from conservatives on this story, most of them along the lines of, “all she needs to do is get her marriage certificate! Problem solved!”

This rather glib and insulting comeback is I’m sure little comfort to a 96-year-old woman who no doubt was married long before most of us were even born, taking into account the vagaries of Tennessee record keeping over the years. Not to mention how offensive it is to millions of us women voters. But regardless, it’s not even factual! It just so happens the marriage certificate is the one document she didn’t have; she showed up to get her ID with

…a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate…

So, what if she had her marriage certificate but no birth certificate?

Furthermore, saying people over age 60 can vote absentee without the required ID but no one else can just makes no sense. I thought this law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, that’s what all the Republicans kept telling us, at least. Do only people under age 60 commit voter fraud? We only need this law for people under a certain age? Is that even legal? Why don’t we just make the law apply only to black people, how about that? Or, let’s exempt all Christians from this law. How would that work? Of course both would be outrageous.

Here’s a thought: why don’t we enact a National ID law, and just make sure everyone has a picture ID. That would solve this problem. Think conservatives would go for that? Not likely. More likely they’d start fearmongering about black helicopters and other nonsense.


Filed under rants, Tennessee, Tennessee politics, voter fraud

21 responses to “TN Voter ID FAIL

  1. I started to read the comments and had to quit at the one that sputtered indignantly about the “multiple instances of fraud committed by ACORN…” yup, ACORN.

    There are too many stupid people.

    • Gah. I’d like them to name ONE PERSON who voted illegally because of ACORN.

      But we have multiple instances of voter disenfranchisement and voter fraud perpetrated by Republican operatives. Like Mark Jacoby, who plead guilty to voter registration fraud. But … ACORN!

  2. Keep in mind that she can still legally vote absentee, so she has not lost her right to vote, and if she’d rather not vote absentee, she need only produce the proof of her name change (marriage certificate) to get the ID. Anyone who wants a driver’s license would have to do the same thing, so its not exactly something that is being done to single out certain classes of voters. In any case the Republicans won the senior vote in 2010 ( so they probably aren’t working overtime to keep seniors from voting.

    • Ketron says they will have to change the law to allow people over 60 to get an absentee ballot without showing a picture ID. So I’m not sure you are correct. Regardless, it’s not the state’s business to tell this lady where to vote. If she wants to go to the voting booth next to her senior tower as the article states, she should have that right. That’s not small government.

      And as for getting her marriage license … wow. I’m so glad the Republican majority is making a 96 year old woman jump through more hoops to vote than Jim Crow .. nothing to see here, move along …

      Republicans won the senior vote and wasted no time throwing them under the bus. SHOCKED.

      • On the absentee ballot issue, I’m going by what is in the article you linked to, specifically “After Cooper was denied a photo ID Monday, Kilpatrick contacted Hamilton County’s Administrator of Elections Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, who recommended that Cooper vote with an absentee ballot rather than having to stand in line with her walker again at the state center. Absentee ballots don’t require photo ID, and the new state law was crafted to allow that exception. A U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a similar Indiana statute cited the absentee ballot exception as one of the reasons the Indiana law didn’t infringe on constitutional voting rights.” You are right though that Ketron is quoted in the other link saying he will introduce a bill to make this so, so I don’t know which is right. The article also says anyone living in a nursing home is automatically exempt from the law.

    • The Pith article I linked to says Ketron yesterday “introduced a bill to let anyone over the age of 60 vote by absentee ballot without a photo ID.”

      So please explain to me what the point of this Voter ID law is, then? Is it just for people under age 60? I mean, if the whole point was to prevent voter fraud (non-existent voter fraud, but whatever …), if it only applies to people under the age of 60 it makes no sense. It defeats the stated purpose of the law. Let’s just have everyone vote by mail then, the way they do it in Oregon.

      Of course, are absentee ballots even counted? Who knows!

      Also from the Pith link:

      An absentee ballot is the solution that’s been offered Dorothy Cooper. But as she told the Times Free Press’ Ansley Haman, she prefers to actually go to the polls, even though she has to do it in a walker.

      How is it small government for the state to tell her no, she has to vote absentee?

      This is a major fail on so many grounds. Republicans have NO leg to stand on here.

      • Kentron appears to be wrong. The TN government website ( lists five exceptions to the voter ID law. The first exception is anyone who votes absentee by mail. You don’t have to be 60 or any other age. Based on this document, Kentron’s bill seems to be superfluous; what he proposes doing is already in the law.

      • Nice try conservative operative, Loretta,

        Just so happens your information is incomplete and your conclusion wrong. From the TN Department of State website linked from the PDF you so kindly supplied: Requirements to obtain an absentee ballot:

        4. Is any additional information required for individuals who have registered to vote by mail?

        Unless an individual who has registered to vote by mail is on the permanent absentee voting register, that person must appear in person to vote in the first election after the registration becomes effective. If a by-mail registrant has already voted in person since the registration, then no additional information will be required to vote by mail.

        I’d say that’s quite a hoop to jump through for a gal in her tenth decade. But we will keep in mind how how wonderfully fair and just the TN republican party really is. I think the main idea is to try to prevent as many people as possible from casting a ballot. A technicality. A way to close the door.

      • I think the main idea is to try to prevent as many people as possible from casting a ballot. A technicality. A way to close the door.

        That’s the point of these Voter ID, laws, right? To stop certain people from voting — poor people, brown people, young people, liberal-minded people. It’s not like we haven’t seen this in the South for over a hundred years.

        Just some missing paperwork? Riiight. Not like we haven’t heard THAT before. Like, a thousand times.

        Amazing to me how history repeats itself, how we never learn from our mistakes. Oh no, nothing to see here, move along …

      • Flying Junior, Mrs. Cooper does not need to “fly through this hoop” in her tenth decade. According to the story, she first voted sometime during FDR’s Administration. A voter does not have to vote in person during the first election after they request an absentee ballot; they have to vote in person the first time after they first register to vote.

      • Loretta you are doing an admirable job of attempting to defend the indefensible but sadly, you have not swayed me or anyone else. You have not addressed any of the pertinent issues here, namely why does a woman with a valid voter registration card AND a government issued PHOTO ID still need to jump through more hoops to vote in her preferred manner (in person), and why does the state of Tennessee have a right to tell this woman she must vote absentee when she wants to walk to the voting booth as she’s done for years. Furthermore, as “show your papers” has been a preferred method of voter disenfranchisement throughout the South for decades, you have failed to demonstrate how this is just.

        As Aunt B. said, props to the nearly century-old black lady for still having her freaking birth certificate. Too bad it’s not enough to suit the white people.

  3. Conservatives are anti-democratic, not just anti-Democratic Party, they are against democracy. That’s why they are always complaining about the “tyranny of the majority” but never the tyranny of a minority. They get away with this by pitting one group of people against another so that the poor conservative voter always can point to someone who is beneath them in the pecking order and feel superior. If you vote for a conservative and you’re not wealthy, you’re stupid.

  4. D.

    I think this tips the balance from merely stupidly venal into evil, and will so report it.

  5. Min

    “But I just wonder: voting is a right; driving is a privilege.”

    I keep waiting for a damn reporter to point that out, every time Ketron or Maggart makes some classict comment about having ID to buy beer and cigarettes and the like. That said, there is considerable blurring between what is a right and a privilege. Most people accept that a privilege is conditional, while a right is guaranteed. For example, it is widely accepted that driving is a privilege which can be granted or taken away by the state under various circumstances. By the same token, it is widely believed that voting is a right which cannot be denied by the state. But that’s not true, as the disenfranchisement of felons so aptly demonstrates.

    • Is there a constitutional right to buy alcohol? It’s not in the Constitution, yet we had the whole Prohibition thing. Of course, that was to distill and sell alcohol, right?

      It all seems so very strange.

      • Jim

        There is a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but you have to submit to (and pass) a background check to purchase a gun… I assume a picture ID is also required, but I have never tried to buy a gun so I don’t know that for a fact.

        and I got a chuckle out of this: “Regardless, it’s not the state’s business to tell this lady where to vote.” – Actually it is the responsibility of the state to provide all citizens a location to vote and to tell them about it.

      • But providing a person a place to vote is not the same as saying, “everyone else can vote in this one place but YOU have to vote absentee.” Where your vote is left to the mercies of the US Postal Service. No, it’s not the same.

        As for the gun thing, you can buy a gun without any of those requirements privately and at gun shows (read about the “Gun Show Loophole.”) And the gun loons are doing the damnedest to dismantle what gun protections we do have while, ironically, putting up barriers to people’s ability to vote.

        And I’m not going to get into a gun argument again because people with guns kill and maim thousands of citizens every where whereas votes do not. That said, to vote you already have to register and provide your social security number so you are checked to be sure you’re a) a citizen and b) not a convicted felon. So you do have to submit to a check of sorts and in some cases it’s more rigorous than to buy a gun.

  6. I thought about you when I read about the 96-year-old. And again when I wrote this one about your amazing state. You have such beauty there and many good folks, but …

  7. “but you have to submit to (and pass) a background check to purchase a gun”

    That bit of teh burnin’ stoopit singed me, here in NY, over 500 miles away. You need to pass a background check in some states to buy a gun from an FFL. You need to apply for a license before even purchasing a gun in the state I live in–unless of course it’s a shotgun or rifle, in which case you need a valid driver’s license and the dough-re-mi.

  8. Pingback: 3rd Tennessee Voter ID FAIL | Southern Beale