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

Dorothy Cooper may not be able to vote in 2012. It'll be the first election she's missed in 50 years.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 06, 2011

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.