96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied voting ID

96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied voting ID

Dorothy Cooper, 96, discusses problems she had getting a photo ID at a Tennessee Driver Service Center. The Boynton Terrace resident plans to vote by absentee ballot.
Dorothy Cooper, 96, discusses problems she had getting a photo ID at a Tennessee Driver Service Center. The Boynton Terrace resident plans to vote by absentee ballot.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Dorothy Cooper is 96 but she can remember only one election when she's been eligible to vote but hasn'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.

So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new state law she'd 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 I didn't have my marriage certificate," Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

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     "I don't know what difference it makes," Cooper said.

Cooper visited the state driver service center with Charline Kilpatrick, who has been working with residents to get free photo IDs. After the clerk denied Cooper's request, Kilpatrick called a state worker, explained what happened and asked if Cooper needed to return with a copy of the marriage certificate.

"The lady laughed," Kilpatrick said. "She said she's never heard of all that."

Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in a Tuesday email that Cooper's situation, though unique, could have been handled differently.

"It is department policy that in order to get a photo ID, a citizen must provide documentation that links their name to the documentation that links their name to the document they are using as primary proof of identity," Qualls said. "In this case, since Ms. Cooper's birth certificate (her primary proof of identity) and voter registration card were two different names, the examiner was unable to provide the free ID."

Despite that, Qualls said, "the examiner should have taken extra steps to determine alternative forms of documentation for Ms. Cooper."

Kilpatrick has had to call the state at least twice after taking someone to get a photo ID or have a photo added to the driver's license. State law allows anyone 60 or older to have their picture removed from their license.

The state has been working diligently to make the process easy for residents, Qualls said.


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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."

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.

"It makes no sense in these economic times that we are shifting our time and resources to this," Brown said.

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 a nonpartisan issue. It's a fair voting issue," said Mary Mancini, executive director of Citizen Action, in a phone interview. "It's all about the legislators seeing that the people of Tennessee don't want this law."


Cooper isn't worried about the politics of the law.

"I hadn't thought about it," she said when asked about why legislators passed the bill.

She just wants to be able to vote.

In her decades of going to the polls, "I never had any problems," she said, not even before the Voting Rights Act passed in the 1960s.

In her 50-plus years working for the same family, she never learned to drive so she never needed a license. She retired in 1993 and returned to Chattanooga from Nashville.

Now, on occasion, one of her bank's tellers or a grocery store clerk will ask for photo ID when she writes or cashes a check, Cooper said.

"I've been banking at SunTrust for a long time," she said. "Sometimes they'll say, well, do you have a Social Security card?"

And she shows it to them. She also has a photo ID issued by the Chattanooga Police Department to all seniors who live in the Boynton Terrace public housing complex, but that won't qualify for voting.

Cooper's younger sister, now 91, lives in a nursing home across town. Nursing home residents and assisted living residents are exempt from the new photo ID requirement.

But Cooper, who barely needs a walker, is not.

Though she's still able to walk around her apartment without assistance and "takes daily exercise" at a community center next door, Cooper never had any children -- although she has outlived two husbands -- and relies on others for transportation.

The law "is a problem if you don't have a way of getting around," she said. "I've been voting all these years."

After Cooper was denied a photo ID Monday, Kilpatrick contacted Hamilton County's Administrator of Elections Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, who recommended that Cooper vote with an absentee ballot rather than having to stand in line with her walker again at the state center.

Absentee ballots don't require photo ID, and the new state law was crafted to allow that exception. A U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a similar Indiana statute cited the absentee ballot exception as one of the reasons the Indiana law didn't infringe on constitutional voting rights.

Still, Cooper said she will miss the practice of going to the voting precinct located in the building next door to hers.

"We always come here to vote," she said, nodding toward a door where voting machines are set up on election day. "The people who run the polls know everybody here."














"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









Original Post

This is what Nuggyt had to say about people like poor ol' Ms. Cooper who will be adversely affected by these voter suppression laws:



"So are you all trying to say black people can't get a fucking ID??  How is this suppression?? Personally if somebody is too lazy or irresponsible to get an ID or register to vote before election day, that person is too lazy or irresponsible to vote.  Jim Crow?? Wow, your grandparents would loooooooved to have had it this easy."



So which is it Nuggyt ... does this little ol' lady (and the thousands others like her) fit into the "lazy" or "irresponsible" category?? 

I would say irresponsible.  It is her responsibility to keep track of her documents . It don't have shit to do with Jim Crow.  She doesn't have the proper documents...sucks to be her.  I guess they are supposed t just take her word for it?  You and  who ever wrote this are so delusional it is beyond belief. Somebody take the old lady to get the proper paperwork and quit bitching about.  Did Obama tell black people to quit complainin'?  This old lady needs to get her marching shoes on and go do what she needs to do. 

She's been voting for decades longer than you've even been alive.


She's had all the paperwork needed to legally live, work, marry, and be a lawful citizen for almost an entire century.


Now, all of a sudden, after a White Republican governor (and a mostly White Republican state congress) gets into office and changes the rules .... she's no longer legally able to vote and can't satisfy the governmental rules to get the proper identification without incurring the hardship of making two or three trips to a state office.


If you can't see a problem with this .... and have even the slightest bit of empathy for this woman .... then, I think it would suck to somebody like be YOU ... even more than it sucks to be her. 

BFD!! You adjust, do what it takes and stop bellyaching.  Those are the rules and they are not unreasonable.  People have to confirm their identity for many other things voting should be one of them.  Hardships??? Too bad, nothing worthwhile is cheap.  She obviously doesn't have the document she had at one time, such is life.  Maybe if she can vote against those who enacted the statute.  Until, it is not unreasonable nor is it illegal.  

Quote by nuggyt: "BFD!! You adjust, do what it takes and stop bellyaching.  Those are the rules and they are not unreasonable".


nuggyt, you are failing to realize a few things in this lady's case.


You know as well as I do that the game is on and one of the reasons for the changes in the law is exactly this..the ability to eliminate senior citizens, especially much older African Americans who may not have certain documentation in order to get a voter ID so that they can be eliminated from voting for President Obama in 2012.


In the case of her marriage certificate, it falls into the category of many older African Americans born the late 1800's or early 1900's especially those living in the deep South, who married in their teenage years by their local church minister and because records of African Americans (marriage certificates, birth certifiates etc) were probably not produced or even filed & documented at those times by those local city/state departments.


Many of these legal documents were probably not created and even when they were taken to that local entity that handles the filing of those documents, they got lost, weren't even filed or simply thrown away by the Whites who worked there.


Many Blacks probably had that one person (the pastor, lawyer, local physican, church clerk etc) who gathered & handled all those documents for an entire community to be taken, processed and filed at that local state department because many of those people who had either had none or at least a 6th grade education who share cropped all their lives, could if barely at all, read, write or even count.


As the case with my late uncle. He never went to school because he was purposely kept out of school by his father to strictly work the fields. At the time he was the only boy in the household. All 5 girls went to school and he didn't. He was a functional illiterate his entire life.


When I did my family tree, I could not find a copy of my grandparents's marriage certificate but both their names were only written in a large book binder at the courthouse that indentified them (with a notary seal) as being married. It named the pastor who performed the ceremony, the location (which was my grandfather's home) and the date/time of marriage.


An actual marriage certificate? Could not find it. And birth certificates are even harder to find because Black mid-wives (who did 99% of the births at the home of the pregeant mother in those times) did not keep accurate records of each birth (they didn't write it down, mixed up names, birth dates etc).


And many did not turn these recorded births into the city health department or courthouse maybe for weeks or months at a time because they performed so many births of Black babies and even when they did, the exact same thing probably happend as the marriage cetificates: got lost, misfiled or thrown away.


My aunt who is in her 70's now had a very hard time finding hers several years ago because it was never produced. And when they found an actual record of her birth it was written in a binder, it was misfiled, her actual name was somebody's else name and her date of birth was wrong. In order to get it all straight she had to go back to her home in Baltimore MD, get the family Bible which had all the births recorded by her mother, traveled back to South Carolina, take it to the local courthouse for verification. And since my hometown didn't have the resources to produce the birth certificate, she had to travel another 80 miles to the state capitol, Columbia, S.C.


With that info, they created a new birth certificate for her.


1500+ plus miles traveled round trip.


So the word irresponsible is right but largly not because of the irresponsibility of 96-year-old Chattanooga resident Dorothy Cooper.


There were high probabilities that many Jim Crow and non-Jim Crow factors were out of her control in this case and the fact that she needs all this "stuff" to verify her eligibility in order to get a photo ID to vote is no more than the same ole' bullshit; taking an old racist Jim Crow law standard, putting lipstick on it and calling it something else.


They totally and purposely understand Jim Crow history, re-creating it in diguise and are taking clear advantage because they know that my now 88+ year old aunt who voted for Obama (the only time she actually voted for the President) may have the exact same problems (but she won't).



That story reminds me of all the ridiculous antics we had to go through to get my Mom a Passport to travel abroad!!


My mother was born in a cabin off the side of a road between Texas and Oklahoma.  Her mother was traveling there to be relatives when she was ready to give birth to my Mom.  Unfortunately, she didn't make it all the way!!    And went into labor early.


Luckily, the people who lived in that cabin were able to find a mid-wife who helped my grandmother through the delivery.  And after a few days, she went on to be with her kinfolk.


There was no birth certificate, no doctor, no nurse, no hospital.  That's just the way things often happened back then.


My mom went to college, got married, worked, voted, had driver's licenses (in 3 states!) ... never had a problem with "documentation" ... until it came time that she wanted to go to on a trip overseas.  To get a passport, she had to have a birth certificate.  Since one was never made out at the time she was born ... it took almost a year to get that done.


We had to find out where this cabin was, exactly .... who these in the cabin people were (and most were deceased).  Eventually, we had to track down the mid-wife (who was WELL in her 90s, but thankfully, still alive!!) to sign an affidavit that said that she was an actual witness to my Mom's birth.  We had to find (and pay) a notary that would travel to the mid-wife's residence and verify her signature.  Then the government had to make the determination that she wasn't lying. 


My mother had changed a letter in her first name from an "e" to a "y" in college ... and when the birth certificate didn't match up with earlier paperwork/documentation, there was another several months of headaches to get that straightened out. 


Thank God my mother had planned this trip enough time in advance so that she didn't have to miss her trip .... but, it was a very, very close call and went down to the wire!! 


Putting elderly and poor people through this kind of expense and time and effort in order to VOTE .... something many of them have been doing for SEVERAL decades now without any problems .... is a travesty of justice!!    It's just SICK that these Republicans would be so inconsiderate and so un-compassionate to put hundreds of thousands of their CITIZENS in this kind of position to have to go through some stupid ass BS like this!!! 


It's just SICK, I tell you.

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