NPR logo Tennessee Voter ID Law To Disrupt 96-Year Old's Election-Day Routine

Tennessee Voter ID Law To Disrupt 96-Year Old's Election-Day Routine

Wherever Republican legislators and governors institute voter ID laws, Democrats and civil libertarians always warn that those requirements will make it harder for some citizens, especially the elderly and poor to exercise the franchise.

An example that made headlines recently is that of Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year old Chattanooga, Tenn. The long-time voter went to a Tennessee driver service center recently to get her free, state-issued voter ID so she'd be able to vote next year only to be refused by a clerk.

The clerk rejected Cooper's application for an ID because the document Cooper used as her required primary identification to get the photo ID, her birth certificate, didn't have her married name on it. (That certainly would have been a remarkable feat if it had.)

So she would need her marriage certificate if she wanted to get the photo ID that would let her vote.

Cutting to the chase Cooper, an African American recalls going to the polls in every election since she was in her 20s except one, the 1960 presidential election when she had just moved.

That includes years of voting when southern blacks were routinely kept from exercising their franchise through poll tests and other stratagems by white local and state officials . She will now vote by absentee mail. That won't require her to produce a marriage license.

Cooper's experience points to the collateral damage of the new voter ID laws. In this case it's disrupting the long practiced habits of citizenship. Maybe a law that makes it harder to a super old citizen to vote helps American democracy though many people will have trouble seeing how.

Also, this law would seem to have a unequal impact on unmarried men and women who lack the other forms of ID that are considered primary, like a drivers license or passport.

If Cooper were a man, for instance, her birth certificate would have sufficed. But because she was married, it didn't.