Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

October 7, 2011

96-Year-Old Black Woman Denied Right to Vote in Tennessee

Thursday, October 6 2011, 2:06 PM EST Tags: 2012 campaign, Voter ID, Voting

96 Year Old Black Woman Denied Vote in Tennessee

http://timesfreepress.com/news/2011/oct/05/marriage-certificate-required-bureaucrat-tells/

Dorothy Cooper is a 96-year-old black woman who lives in Chattanooga,Tennessee. She was recently denied a voter identification card because she didn’t have her marriage certificate available — the same card that’s required by the state to vote. This coming election may be the first one she misses in 50 years.

In February, all 20 Republicans and one Democrat in the state senate passed a measure requiring Tennessee voters show a driver’s licenses or other government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. Democrats countered that the bill’s provisions would make it tougher to many of the 500,000 adult Tennesseans — many of them poor, elderly or handicapped — who have no state driver’s license.

And this is exactly what’s happening to Cooper, Times Free Press reports:

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.

“I don’t know what difference it makes,” Cooper 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,” Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls told the Free Press. She went on to add the examiner should have provided additional forms to Cooper.

State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, says 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,” she told the Times Free Press.

Tennessee is just one of an array of state governments across the country that have enacted new laws that make it harder for voters of traditionally Democratic demographics to register to vote. A report released earlier this week found these new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 . That’s 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

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.

“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.

POLL-ITICS?

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.”

VOTING ALL THESE YEARS

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.”

October 6, 2011

MPS Public Hearing Tuesday October 11th on Voting Rights and the New Voter ID Requirement

A proposal to do voter education among MPS students, their families and communities is coming before the ISR committee at 5:30 on October 11th. Please come to testify and support opposition to the attempt by Scott Walker and the Republicans to disenfranchise our communities. following is the resolution that President Bonds and I have put forward for Tuesday night’s meeting:

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Board of School Directors declares in its mission statement that it has the responsibility to educate “all students” for “responsible citizenship”; and

WHEREAS, The Wisconsin Department of Instruction charges schools within its purview with “helping children develop to their full potential as citizens… developing citizenship means becoming a productive, responsible, caring and contributing member of society…..”; and

WHEREAS, Voting is a right of all eligible voters in any country and the foremost way to exhibit good citizenship and civil responsibility; and

WHEREAS, Governor Scott Walker signed into law a new Voter Identification Bill on May 25, 2011 that requires voters to present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID in order to vote; and

WHEREAS, Although the main provisions of the Voter Identification Law will take effect starting with the 2012 elections, some changes, such as requiring voters to sign poll books and to have lived at their current address for 28 days instead of just 10, take effect immediately; and

WHEREAS, Elections play a vital role in a system of representative democracy. Young people who are involved in the electoral process affirm their support as well as acquire a stake in the system; and

WHEREAS, Voting is the only form of participation in which each citizen has an equal say (one person, one vote); and

WHEREAS, Young people may have political interests that differ from those of older voters. If young people don’t vote, they and their distinct interests are more likely to be ignored or neglected by policy-makers;  now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Administration is directed to increase the participation of eligible students, parents, and guardians of students in elections throughout our district by encouraging voter registration, education, and awareness; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Administration is directed to create and implement, beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, a voter registration program for both students and parents or  guardians alike; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all MPS high schools be required to incorporate into the curriculum, lessons pertaining to voter education and the voter registration process; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School students, during their 12th grade curriculum, receive instruction on the voter registration process.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School students, who reach the age of voter eligibility during their tenure as an MPS student be offered the opportunity to formally registered to vote as a part of the civics education program of study.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School facilities, including but not limited to schools and administrative offices have on site, pamphlets describing and materials for completing the voter registration process.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all public meetings, and school open houses have voter registration materials displayed and made available for public consumption, including both information specific to the Wisconsin Voter Identification Law along with the corresponding forms necessary to complete the voter registration application.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Administration shall report back to the Board annually at the June Board cycle on the outcomes of the voter registration program.

Brennan Center for Justice Report on Voting Law Disenfranchisement of 5 Million Americans: Students, the Elderly, Communities of Color and the Poor are Targeted

 Brennan Center for Justice: at New York University School of Law

Voting Law Changes in 2012

By Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden
– 10/03/11

Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening restrictions on voting has suddenly swept across the country. More than five million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year — a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

This report is the first full accounting and analysis of this year’s voting cutbacks. It details both the bills that have been proposed and the legislation that has been passed since the beginning of 2011.

Download the Report (PDF)

Download the Appendix (PDF), a compilation of potentially vote-suppressing legislation proposed in the 2011 legislative sessions.

Download the Overview (PDF), a four-page summary with key findings.

Read the Executive Summary

View the Report


Executive Summary

Over the past century, our nation expanded the franchise and knocked down myriad barriers to full electoral participation. In 2011, however, that momentum abruptly shifted.

State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws making it harder to register or to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Two states reversed earlier reforms and once again disenfranchised millions who have past criminal convictions but who are now taxpaying members of the community. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

States have changed their laws so rapidly that no single analysis has assessed the overall impact of such moves. Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters at a time when the United States continues to turn out less than two thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.

This study is the first comprehensive roundup of all state legislative action thus far in 2011 on voting rights, focusing on new laws as well as state legislation that has not yet passed or that failed. This snapshot may soon be incomplete: the second halves of some state legislative sessions have begun.

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