published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Real vote tampering ahead

  • photo
    Dorothy Cooper, 96, holds her free state voting ID Thursday outside the new Dayton Boulevard Department of Safety Driver Service Center. Earlier in October, Cooper was denied her ID because she did not have her marriage certificate.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Should voters be required to show a photo ID?
  • Yes. 65%
  • No. 35%

804 total votes.

Two elderly Tennessee women -- one 96, the other 91, both regular voters for decades -- can now testify directly as to how the state's new voter photo ID law may deny vast numbers of Tennessee voters the elemental franchise of a supposedly democratic society -- their right to vote. The law, passed this year by the state's ruling Republican triumvirate, mimics similar laws also passed this year in 13 other Republican-controlled states, and in three others last year.

Chattanooga resident Dorothy Cooper, 96, carried her birth certificate, her voter registration card, a rent receipt, and a lease agreement on her first attempt to get a photo ID voter card at a local state driver's license center. But since her married name on the latter three of those documents didn't match her maiden name on her birth certificate, she was denied a voter photo ID. The state agent at the counter told Cooper she needed a marriage certificate to link her married name to her maiden name.

(One notable irony must be inserted here: Had she carried a state gun-carry permit, rather than her Chattanooga Police Department-issued Boynton Terrace public housing resident card, she would have been entitled, under the new Republican law, to a voter photo ID, which essentially tells you for whom Republicans will kneel and serve.)

Cooper, an African-American and a domestic worker for a Nashville family for 50 years before she retired, had never learned to drive, and hasn't needed to since she retired and moved back to Chattanooga in 1993. After this newspaper, and then other media, picked up the story, Tennessee officials got very concerned. Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said the state was now "encouraging our employees to use some common sense discretion in deciding whether or not that person is presenting documentation that is legitimate and issue the photo ID accordingly."

Oh. Well that fixes, the problem, doesn't it? Let's have discretionary employee decisions now, in lieu of the former rules the Republicans claim had threatened voter fraud.

That's hardly prescriptive. But even so, when Cooper returned a second time with an escort trying to help her, it still took a telephone call by none other than Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to the Red Bank driver's license center to get Cooper's voter photo-ID cleared. We suspect it helped Cooper that a videographer team was taping the encounter.

But neither Gibbons' nor Ramsey's effort would have helped 91-year-old Virginia Lasater, the Murfreesboro resident who last week gave up waiting in one of the state's long lines at drivers' license centers, where waits can last four hours. She said she was physically unable to stand up long enough in the line to get to the counter.

"It makes me about halfway mad because I know what's going on," she said later. She said she was "absolutely" sure the new voter photo law is a Republican tactic to suppress voter turnout by potential Democrats.

She's right about that. Some 675,000 voting-age Tennesseans, according to the Department of Safety, do not have an acceptable photo ID for voting purposes. About 125,000 of those are drivers over 60 who previously opted (as allowed) not to get a photo on their driver's license.

Across the country, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice shows, more than 5 million eligible voters will have difficulty getting a new photo-ID for voting because of such Republican laws. That could easily tilt the next presidential election to the Republican candidate, which is obviously the reason behind this new voter suppression strategy.

Tennessee, whose GOP officials are hollering foul because the plights of people like Cooper and Lasater are being revealed, say the state must have a voter ID law to prevent voter fraud, but they can cite no proof of the need. Voter officials, meanwhile, say voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

State Republican officials also say they have allocated $438,000 to assist those who now need official photo IDs to vote. We ask how that money is being spent. Fifty-three of Tennessee's 95 counties do not have a driver's license center available to issue a voter ID card. For that reason alone, many of the elderly, the frail, the handicapped, the poor and many minorities will be not be able to get to a licensing center, and will be unable to vote unless the state makes photo IDs more easily obtainable.

If Republicans are sincere and honest in defense of their new law, they would take the simplest solution: to buy a photo ID picture machine for each county's Election Commission headquarters. At roughly $2,000 or less for each county's photo ID machine, that would take less than half the money the Legislature promised to use to help voters comply with the ID law. Certainly these offices would be easier for voters to reach than out-of-county driver's license centers.

And having issued voter registration cards and having possession of voting records and signatures, the expertise of these officers in voter registration cases would be a great help in assuring the timely issuance of voter ID photo cards. Whatever Republicans decide, they must do more to help voters obtain new voter ID cards, and they must do so quickly. Otherwise their obvious voter suppression effort will effectively result in massive voter tampering and fraud of the foulest sort. That will be permanent stain on their record.

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sandyonsignal said...

This law violates the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped passed in 1984. Here's the law - Voting Accessibility which states " It is the intention of Congress in enacting this Act to promote the fundamental right to vote by improving access for handicapped and elderly individuals to registration facilities and polling places for Federal elections."

October 25, 2011 at 2:51 a.m.
lightkeeper said...

Some of the conservative GOP now controlling the state along with the ones running hamilton county conveniently placed the new drivers license station in Red Bank where no buses run for those without transportation. One would think that if a drivers license station were placed in a metropolitan area it would be where everyone would have access for first time drivers license or state ID, you don't necessarly have to have a car to want and have a drivers license for those who get upset over this comment and want to nit pick, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out it was done on purpose. Just more dirty sneaky underhanded tactics from a party that claims {not all, but some} to be such big christians at face, but racists hypocrites at heart.

October 25, 2011 at 5:13 a.m.
EaTn said...

As I've said in the past, anyone who would try to hamper a person's Constitutional right to vote is unpatriotic and the scum of the earth. But to use elected positions sworn to uphold the Constitution to accomplish this is even worse than scum.

October 25, 2011 at 6:16 a.m.
conservative said...

In the Lieberal world the sky is always falling. Gloom and doom is the order fo the day. So many worries to chose from, such as global warming, ozone depletion, rain forrest depletion, dirty air, dirty water, no water, constitutional government, the snail darter and here Republican control and their effort to stop voter fraud. The writer frets over the "VAST" numbers of people who may be denied the right to vote. When the requirements were followed these 2 of the "VAST" received a FREE ( a Demoncrat's favorite word) voter ID. Now the 2 can vote Demoncrat on election day, if someone reminds them. Now contrast these 2 with the 112,000 military voters who did not even receive a ballot in the 2010 elections, as reported on the RIGHT side of today's editorial page.

October 25, 2011 at 8:24 a.m.
holdout said...

I see no reason what so ever to allow a vote without a photo ID. Maybe a hundred years ago it could have been argued but not now. Voting should never be made so hard to accomplish that it becomes impossible but neither should it be effortless.

October 25, 2011 at 8:29 a.m.
khargis said...

"Some citizens will be exempt from the new law, including:

absentee voters,

residents of nursing homes or assisted living centers,

people who are hospitalized,

people who have religious objections to being photographed

and those who are unable to pay for photo IDs.

Voters who do not bring photo IDs to the polls may vote with provisional ballots that will be counted once they show IDs at their local election commission offices"

October 25, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.

I don't understand why this is still an issue with the bed wetters. The system worked. Ms. Cooper has her voter ID many months before she will need it (and as required by the new law).

Beaten' that dead horse, aye TFP?

October 25, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

Very good, Conservative. Exactly right.

October 25, 2011 at 9:38 a.m.
01centare said...

holdout said... I see no reason what so ever to allow a vote without a photo ID. Maybe a hundred years ago it could have been argued but not now.

Ms. Cooper has a photo ID and was still rejected. Her Boynton Terrace police issued ID card issued by the Chattanooga Police Dept. The photo ID required of all citizens living in government housing. How do you explain the fact that she was still rejected, and yet if she'd had a gun license she'd been allowed to obtain a photo ID from the DMV?


(One notable irony must be inserted here: Had she carried a state gun-carry permit, rather than her Chattanooga Police Department-issued Boynton Terrace public housing resident card

October 25, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Occupy DMV!

October 25, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.
EaTn said...

Maybe some of you should get out of your gullible sheep line and honestly ask yourself what was the purpose of the voter ID law except to discourage some like a grandmother, who never needed a photo ID in her lifetime, from the voting process? This answer is just between you and your self respect.

October 25, 2011 at 1:36 p.m.
khargis said...

This is clearly a shameful effort by the Republican majority in Nashville to disenfranchise deceased voters, and nonresident voters (2 demographics which tend to vote Democratic). How dare they deprive the Democratic party (from which they have just wrested a combination of legislative and executive control for the first time since Reconstruction) of these, their rightful votes?

October 25, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
joneses said...

If one does not have enough sense to get a photo ID then we can assume they have not enough sense to make an educated decision on who to vote for. The reason we have Obama is because stupid uneducated people put him in office. Do you remember the lady in Chicago saying "I voted for Obama because he is going to put gas in my car and pay off my mortgage"? How disapointed she must be to be made a fool.

October 26, 2011 at 6:33 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Joneses said "The reason we have Obama is because stupid uneducated people put him in office."

In this country, we get to be stupid, uneducated, and vote at the same time. In this country, we don't tolerate authoritarian regimes, just because you think you know better than the "stupid" people. If you want to live in a country where votes are decided for people because you think they are stupid, move out of the United States of America, cause round here, we use a little thing called the constitution. You sir, just stepped all over it, in it, and through it.

October 26, 2011 at 8:50 a.m.
rolando said...

Once again, it is reported that Osama bin Laden must still be alive; he voted in Chicago.

...we use a little thing called the constitution.

Wherein it states that voting procedures and requirements are determined by the various States, Ms JOWoman. This one happens to require a Voter ID check to establish eligibility. Being alive is another requirement.

October 26, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

"(One notable irony must be inserted here: Had she carried a state gun-carry permit, rather than her Chattanooga Police Department-issued Boynton Terrace public housing resident card, she would have been entitled, under the new Republican law, to a voter photo ID, which essentially tells you for whom Republicans will kneel and serve.)"

More left page ignorance on display.

I'm not sure why anyone possessing a TN HCP would need to obtain a voter "photo ID card" as they would already be in possession of a STATE ISSUED PHOTO ID CARD (the aforementioned HCP) which would be perfectly valid to use at the polls.

I can't imagine the uproar from the left were the state to require all those who wish to exercise their right to vote jump through the same hoops (Local Sheriff's Dept., TBI & FBI background checks, mandatory training class, electronic fingerprinting, and a large fee) required to exercise the right to carry a handgun.

October 26, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.
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