Dorothy Cooper, the 96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied her photo ID for voting in October, is becoming the national emblem in the Democratic fight against state voter identification laws.
The Democratic National Committee rolled out www.protectingthevote.org Thursday and released a report on laws affecting voting rights across the states. The site attacks new voter ID laws across the country and features Cooper, who was turned away in October from a local Tennessee Department of Safety Driver Services Center.
Republicans say the bill has tremendous support across the state and is needed to ensure confidence in elections.
“I never knew it’d cause this much fuss,” Cooper said when reached by phone Thursday. “When I started I thought I was going to get my card and that would be it.”
Cooper waited at a state center on Oct. 3 with an envelope with her rent receipt, lease, voter registration card and birth certificate. But she was turned away for not having her marriage certificate to link her birth certificate, which had her maiden name, with her married one.
The Times Free Press first reported her story, which made national headlines and prompted several state offices to offer assistance in helping Cooper get her free ID.
Later that month Cooper returned to a Driver Services Center with her marriage license and walked out with her ID.
Will Crossley, the Democratic National Committee counsel and director of voter protection, said the Democratic National Committee chose to highlight Cooper to show how the laws are “unnecessary and essentially arbitrary,” and that “someone who has been voting for 70-something years would suddenly have her identity questioned.”
Cooper was born before women had the right to vote and she didn’t have any difficulty voting even before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, she said.
Lance Frizzell, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the identification law is necessary.
“Tennessee’s voter ID law is smart public policy that is overwhelmingly supported by Tennessee citizens as the best way to ensure the integrity of the ballot box,” Frizzell said in an email. “It is not surprising that the party of Obama would use this situation to create fear and confusion in an attempt to raise money.”
On Thursday Cooper said she didn’t know her story was being told again.
Though the Democrats have adopted Cooper’s story, she said she remains apolitical about the issue.
“Some lady in Murfreesboro had the same problem,” Cooper said. “That was in the paper.”
Though Cooper said she reads the Times Free Press closely every day, “I don’t read too much about the politics.”
Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...