Dorothy Cooper is 96 years old, and she can only remember one election when she was eligible to vote, but didn’t.
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.
Tennessee Law: You Need A Photo ID To Vote
So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new Tennessee state law she would 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 since she didn’t have a marriage certificate, the clerk denied Ms. Cooper a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.
Opponents of Tennessee’s new law have launched a petition drive urging legislators to reconsider, but state officials have fired back, accusing foes of spreading misinformation about the law’s impact.
96-Year-Old Dorothy Cooper: The New Poster Child
At age 96, Dorothy Cooper is the new poster child for what’s wrong with Tennessee’s photo ID voter law.
From Nashville Scene:
It’s beginning to dawn on some Republicans that they might have overreached just a tad bit with this photo ID law. Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, is one of the main proponents, and even he is backpedaling. Yesterday, as liberal groups launched a petition drive against the law and the Senate held hearings into whether it’s disenfranchising voters, Ketron introduced a bill to let anyone over the age of 60 vote by absentee ballot without a photo ID.
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. That’s what makes people proud, not photo IDs. Here’s a woman who has gone to her voting precinct to do her patriotic duty her whole life, even when the segregationist laws were intentionally aimed at preventing it. And now they tell her no.
State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said Tuesday that Cooper’s case is an example of how the law “erects barriers” for the elderly and poor people — a disproportionate number of whom are minorities
“What you do, you suppress the vote,” Brown said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”
A Law To Prevent Voter Fraud – Or To Suppress The Vote?
The General Assembly passed the photo ID law earlier this year, with lawmakers saying it was needed to prevent voter fraud. The legislature allocated $438,000 to provide free photo IDs for registered voters who don’t have a qualified ID.
In Nashville on Tuesday afternoon, a coalition of organizations announced an effort to repeal the law. Groups such as the ACLU of Tennessee, various chapters of the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and Tennessee Citizen Action announced a petition drive and get-out-the-vote effort.
This is simply a fair voting issue. If the state of Tennessee doesn’t want to be held up to ridicule around the country, state election officials should reverse this ruling quickly.
Photo from Denise Cross via flickr