How a 96-year-old Woman Was Rejected a Voter ID
From record voter turnout to record voter restriction
Yesterday the conservative-leaning, African-American columnist Juan Williams wrote an op-ed in The Hill defending the right to vote against states that are now imposing restrictive laws such as identification requirements. Citing the Brennan Center for Justice report that up to five million citizens could be denied voting privileges in 2012 due to new state rules, Williams wrote of the GOP:
"They are turning back the clock on voting rights in America. ... It is no secret that 10 percent of all Americans don’t have government-issued identification and that this includes nearly 20 percent of young voters and 25 percent of black voters."
Someone should ask GOP candidate Herman Cain how he feels about that. After all, his state of Georgia is one of eight states that have passed photo voter ID laws, and is one of five that also requires proof of citizenship to vote. Such laws impact minorities, students and the elderly disproportionately. With the exception of Kansas, each of the states with both voter ID and proof of citizenship laws have significant African-American populations: Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
You might remember Tennessee as the place where 96-year-old, African-American Dorothy Cooper was denied a photo ID for voting. Close to 126,000 people in Tennessee are registered to cast ballots but have no photo on their driver's license. Another 47,000 people in the state are registered to vote, but don't have a driver's license. That's almost 173,000 people who will have to jump through extra hoops to exercise their constitutional right next year.
In 2008, Obama lost Tennessee to Sen. John McCain but grabbed 50,960 more votes than Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry did in 2004. Obama, in fact, picked up more votes than Bill Clinton did when he won the state in 1992 and 1996 (though population increases should be factored into those). So how did Tennessee go from Obama picking up record votes in 2008 to the state passing voting restrictions in 2011?
Here's a timeline that explains:
December 30, 2010 -- Republicans control the state legislature's House of Representatives and Senate, and the governor's seat for the first time since the post-Civil War era. Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron eyes legislation on immigration and voter identification, the latter of which haven't been able to survive the legislature since introduced in 2007.
February 14, 2011 -- Senate Bill 16, which would require a state-issued identification to vote, passes. Democrats try to pass amendments that would add additional forms of ID that would be acceptable, including a Medicaid ID, but it doesn't survive. Sen. Ketron says “Tennesseans are required to show photo identification for everything from renting a movie or boarding a plane to making a purchase at the mall or cashing a check, and we do it without complaint.”
April 13, 2011 -- Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper says that a voter ID law may be unconstitutional. Cooper writes in an opinion, “Without the state also providing the ability to obtain a free photo identification card, [the bill] unduly burdens the right to vote and constitutes a poll tax in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment with respect to federal elections and the Equal Protection Clause with respect to state and local elections.”
April 14, 2011 -- The voter ID bill passes through the state House. Republican Steve McDaniel, who abstained in the vote, says “The average voter in the district that I represent in order to get a photo ID as is required in this legislation, one would have to drive an average of 30 miles.” All but five Republicans vote to pass it.
August 3-6, 2011 -- Sen. Ketron parties in New Orleans with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the anti-government, Koch brothers-funded organization that Nashville Scene says is most responsible for sculpting the voter ID bill that's now law. Ketron serves as a member on its Energy, Environment and Agriculture, and Tax and Fiscal Policy task forces.
September 27, 2011 -- Sen. Ketron stands with former county Democratic Party chair Jonathon Fagan as they reveal that current local Democratic Party vice chair Tony Pegel is an ex-felon who was allowed to vote from 1992 through 2010. Ketron says that his rights were "disenfranchised" by Pegel who was convicted of robbery in the early 1980s. Pegel was added to voter rolls in '92 by an elections commission staffer by mistake. Ketron holds the Pegel case up as reason why the voter ID laws are needed, even though Pegel having or not having and ID would have had no bearing on the mistake that was made.
October 4, 2011 -- 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper was denied an identification card when she applied for voting purposes. Sen. Ketron says that having a voter ID should "make you proud." State elections coordinator Mark Goins says that the new ID law will "increase the turnout for the 2012 election."