96-Year-Old Chattanooga Woman Denied Voting ID


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.


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Photo from Denise Cross via flickr


Julie V.
Julie V5 years ago

Tennessee. Very bad news for democracy.

Jennifer S.
Jennifer S6 years ago

The laws requiring voter ID's are quite effective in keeping the 'undesirable' people from voting. The 'undesirable' people I am speaking of are those people that support a Government of the People, instead of what we have right, now which is a Government of the Corporations. These laws were passed to keep this country a Government of the Corporations and those that are impacted by the new restrictive voter requirements as a general rule support a Government of the People and those in power will do what ever they can to prevent a Government of the People from being put in place once again. The Corporations and the wealthy have spent millions and millions of $$$$ to make this country a Government of the Corporations and are not going to stand by and allow their 'empire' from coming crashing down. Those very people are at the center of the crisis that this country is in right now and if it is ever going to get better in this country we need to put the American People back in the position they were in when this country was formed. That position is Government of the People! There is so much corruption in our government today and bribery and payoff's have become so common place that they are just accepted today as a normal course of the way things are. Giving the power back to the American People will not be easy to accomplish because we the People are fighting the people that have the most money and are willing to spend as much as necessary to keep this country out of the hands o

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

This crud reminds me of when I was about four years old in Aliceville AL...

john hall
john hall6 years ago

Elizabeth Today while while in a store a man in front of me was trying to buy beer the guy looked like he was in his 50s didn't have a picture I.d. The cashier couldn't sell it to him he got mad and left . The woman had to follow the law if she sells it to him she gets fired that law is silly but it's there for a reason .

john hall
john hall6 years ago

Elizabeth. Your right my grammar sucks but I follow the law and this woman will get her I.d. And some time soon every state will enact the same law . Every state has laws that don't make sence or that are plain silly but it's there laws don't like them change them .

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

Tennessee, you need to clean up your act!

Susan O.
Susan O6 years ago

@MitW ... no, they haven't evolved, not even since THIS 1925 trial:


Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K6 years ago

more pearls of wisdom from john h, the language challenged. John, what if you had to pass an English test to vote? That would leave you out.

She had a voter id card already.

Plus john, I bet your picture doesn't really look like you.

Ely Cee
E C6 years ago

not only should they (state gov't) let the lady vote--but they should pick her up and take her to the polls themselves. I hope she writes a book or something--I bet she has a lot to tell.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W6 years ago

Unfortunately, after my separation from my husband, I moved to TN. That's when I found out and had to pay over $500 to get my legal name back after my divorce. The state laws truly suck, no doubt about it! Found out later, any other state, it would have just been a filing of papers for less than $25.