published Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Dorothy Cooper, woman in photo ID snag, finally gets to vote

Dorothy Cooper, left, signs paperwork before voting Tuesday morning at the Westside voting station at Boynton Terrace in Chattanooga. Cooper made national news last year when she struggled to get identification due to a previous marital name change.
Dorothy Cooper, left, signs paperwork before voting Tuesday morning at the Westside voting station at Boynton Terrace in Chattanooga. Cooper made national news last year when she struggled to get identification due to a previous marital name change.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
  • Voters come out for Super Tuesday
    Watch as local voters, including 96-year-old Boynton Terrace resident Dorothy Cooper, cast their ballots in the Super Tuesday primary elections.

A woman who was born before women's suffrage in 1920 and weathered the civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s cast her ballot Tuesday, just as she's been doing since the '40s.

Only this time, 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper had to bring something she's never been required to have before -- a photo ID.

She walked into her local voting precinct a little after noon and presented the photo ID she once was denied by the state in October. She was given the free ID only after making two trips to a state Driver Services Center.

"I got to use it today, after all this," Cooper said as she aimed her walker toward her home at Boynton Terrace Apartments.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law last year aimed at tackling voter fraud that requires those going to the polls to present a photo ID issued by the state or federal government.

No widespread problems were reported in the first election since the new law went into effect, but turnout was much lower than the March 2008 election when both Democratic and Republican primaries were contested.

In 2008, Hamilton County voters cast 74,417 ballots. This year, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, only 37,844 voters cast ballots Tuesday.

But after the steps Cooper had to take to get her ID, she made sure she voted.

In early October, when Cooper first went to a state Driver Service Center to get her free ID, she was told she couldn't have one because she lacked a marriage certificate that linked the maiden name on her 1915 birth certificate to the two other forms of current ID she took with her.

Later that month, she returned to the Driver Services Center with the certificate and received her ID, but not before her story made national news. Cooper landed on MSNBC and garnered calls from the office of Tennessee Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey, who offered his assistance in her quest for ID.

After stories about Cooper and others across the state, election officials ramped up their public information campaign about the new law, even opening on Saturdays to issue free photo IDs and upgrades of nonphoto driver's licenses, which are available to those 60 and older.

Of the 201,000 who voted early across the state, fewer than 50 showed up without qualified ID, according to state election officials.

At her precinct, Cooper was the 58th person to vote.

Shortly before Cooper voted Tuesday, 93-year-old William Henley walked across the street to cast his ballot.

"I even brought my passport and everything," he said. "I thought about bringing my birth certificate."

Henley said he's never missed a chance to vote.

"I even voted absentee when I was in Japan in 1944," he said.

Neither the local NAACP nor local political parties reported any major run-ins over the new photo ID requirement on Tuesday.

But turnout was light, and local Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith attributed lower numbers to the lack of contested races on his party's ticket.

"In August and November, it will be a different story," he said.

about Ansley Haman...

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 ...

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement
400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.