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New law denies 96-year-old Tennessee woman voter ID

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Summary of story from Gawker.com, October 6, 2011

A 96-year-old woman, Dorothy Cooper, was denied her application for photo ID (now required to vote) at her local office in Tennessee as the clerk claimed, despite providing documented evidence, that she could not verify her surname.

Cooper is an elderly black woman and therefore fits the demographic group whom critics believe the new law discriminates against most.

(“T]he point of ‘Voter ID’ [is] to stop people you don’t want voting – the poor, minorities, take your pick!—on a technicality,” notes websiteWonkette.

“This is how so many black Americans were denied the vote in the South for a hundred years after being ’emancipated.'”

Cooper told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that she took her voter registration card, her lease, a rent receipt, and her birth certificate to the ID office as evidence. Her surname was challenged as her birth certificate had her maiden name on it, and the clerk wanted to see her marriage certificate, which had “Cooper” on it.

The state’s “acceptable proof of identity page” requires applicants to prove any name changes “if different than name on Primary ID”, which in Cooper’s case would apply to her birth certificate.

Despite pledges from spokespeople to assist Cooper in obtaining voter ID, there remains confusion, even amongst state workers, as to what the ID requirements actually are.

In a recent conversation with newspaper Nashville Scene, spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals was unable to spell out what Cooper needed to provide:

When asked directly what documentation Cooper lacked, Donnals replied:

‘We want to talk with her about what she has. Every situation is different.’

She also admitted the original incident was handled poorly

‘…we think the clerk could have taken some extra steps to help this woman in this situation. But that is the policy. If someone comes in with the birth certificate that does not have their correct last name, then there needs to be some supporting document to prove that’s her last name.’

Several groups who oppose the new law have launched a petition to repeal the rules.

Following the furor the local election administrator said Cooper can vote by absentee ballot, which doesn’t require photo ID.

WVoN comment – We covered a story the other day from the New York Times that predicted just this kind of situation as a result of new election laws in the US. And guess what – most of them have been passed by Republicans. So surprise there then.

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