Political Animal


October 06, 2011 9:55 AM Meet Dorothy Cooper

By Steve Benen

Republican officials at multiple levels have waged a “war on voting” for much of the year, and sometimes, political wars have casualties. Take Dorothy Cooper, an elderly voter in Tennessee, for example. (thanks to P.A. for the tip)

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.

Cooper thought she’d jumped through all of the procedural hoops needed to participate in an election. She brought a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her old voter registration card, and her birth certificate, and asked for her free voter ID card that is now mandated under state law. The clerk denied her request — her birth certificate showed her maiden name, and the 96-year-old voter didn’t have a copy of her marriage certificate.

Keep in mind, Dorothy Cooper has been voting for seven decades, but that was before Republicans decided that an imaginary problem required new restrictions to make it harder for voters to participate.

Indeed, in this specific case, Dorothy Cooper, an African-American woman living in the South, found it easier to vote during the Jim Crow era than under the new Republican rules. She’s found it easier to register before the Voting Rights Act than in 2011.

One of the main GOP proponents of the restrictions in Tennessee, apparently embarrassed, suggested this week senior citizens perhaps should be allowed to vote by absentee ballot without a photo ID.

But Cooper wants to go to the polls and cast her vote. It apparently brings her a sense of pride.

And next year, she’ll likely be one of 5 million Americans that an offensive Republican scheme will keep from the polls.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • zmulls on October 06, 2011 9:58 AM:

    This should be the first commercial about the nationwide voting crackdown. Nobody wants to go up against a 96-year-old woman.

  • berttheclock on October 06, 2011 10:02 AM:

    Meanwhile in Texas, should you show your UT card, you will not be accepted. However, your NRA card will get you to the head of the line.

  • Ron Byers on October 06, 2011 10:02 AM:

    This should be the opening shot in a giant Democratic GOTV campaign starting now. Where is the commercial. We sure won't see the story on the evening news. My god it would take time away from Amanda Knox.

  • Patrick Star on October 06, 2011 10:04 AM:

    Dorothy Cooper needs to be the the national spokesperson for voter disenfranchisement in this country. Her case should be a source of shame for not only the charlatans who would deny her her constitutional right to vote, but also for the millions of people who never bother to vote at all.

  • jon on October 06, 2011 10:04 AM:

    If those five million people broke five million windows at five million Republican homes and businesses and vehicles, there are plenty of people like myself who wouldn't be able to identify the perpetrators.

  • c u n d gulag on October 06, 2011 10:07 AM:

    This again, shows that Conservatives are nothing but Fascists.

    Can you have nihilistic Fascists?

    And yes, this is an ad that speaks for itself. And the DoJ needs to investigate the legitimace of the Republicans 'Voters No-rights Bills.'

    Unfortunately, we know how this Roberts SCOTUS will rule if a case ever got to them.
    The list of eligible voters would be:
    Over 21
    Land/Home owners

  • Lifelong Dem on October 06, 2011 10:07 AM:

    In 2004 Karl Rove got 3 million religious people to the polls who had not voted in 2000. That was the margin of victory for Bush over Kerry. Obviously someone in the GOP has calculated that they need to keep at least 5 million Democrats from the polls.

  • Daniel Kim on October 06, 2011 10:11 AM:

    It has to be said by someone: If she were white, do you think the clerk would have denied her?

  • 2Manchu on October 06, 2011 10:12 AM:

    "Meanwhile in Texas, should you show your UT card, you will not be accepted. However, your NRA card will get you to the head of the line." -berttheclock

    As a college sports fanatic, I have to say that is truly fucked up.

  • zandru on October 06, 2011 10:19 AM:

    Selective Disenfranchisement of Women

    I'm surprised that few have made a big deal out of this.

    Frankly, it's HUGE.

    How many women have a birth certificate that has their name on it? Well under 50%! How many people are able to locate their marriage licenses? Divorce papers? How accessible are these from state or local authorities, anyway?

    The Republican voter laws intend to MASSIVELY DISENFRANCHISE ALMOST ALL WOMEN.

    Come on! Where's the outrage?

  • Schtick on October 06, 2011 10:27 AM:

    What's the problem? That's exactly the result the tealiban wants.
    They own the machines we vote on, they make the rules that force people to jump through hoops to maybe get to vote, they control most of the media, and they bought the NYPD, (I imagine if this works out, soon to be all PDs), through their friends on Wall Street.

    crapcha....ssolickl generally....generally, yes.

  • berttheclock on October 06, 2011 10:30 AM:

    @zandru, my birth certificate from Jayhawkland, has my mother's maiden name incorrectly spelled. Some nurse at a hospital in KCK miswrote her name and this has been treated as Gold by both Topeka and the SSA. In fact, I have to remember, whenever I have to deal with the SSA that incorrect spelling. I, once had an argument with an employee of the SSA, where he told me my version of her name was incorrect. I even showed him a family photograph of a school outside Peoria, IL which was named for my mother's family. He refused to budge.

  • Norbert on October 06, 2011 10:30 AM:

    This makes me absolutely furiously angry. We simply cannot let them roll back the right to vote for anyone, let alone 5 million. We are going to have to take to the streets like 50 years ago, to not do so is to betray those who did it then. If that doesn't work peacefully, then see jon's comment above.

    Does this make you angry too? Forward this story. Talk about it with people you know and with strangers. Get involved.

  • zeitgeist on October 06, 2011 10:36 AM:

    she seems like a nearly perfect lead plaintiff in a Voting Rights Act class action suit.

  • stevio on October 06, 2011 10:40 AM:

    Where is the outrage? Try looking to the Nielson ratings to see how many couch potatoes are watching Dancing With the Stars while the GOP steals their Third World Country from under their feet. Well deserved me thinks..

    PLUS, Obama's nonchalant attitude towards this cruel component of the 2012 GOP strategy isn't helping. He thinks the Bully Pulpit is only found on playgrounds and when jerks are harassing gays in high schools.

  • Dorothy on October 06, 2011 10:50 AM:

    @Zandru, hope you don't mind but I copied a portion of your post on my wall and posted this blog to facebook - all women must be made aware of this! You said it much better than I could!

  • john sherman on October 06, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Occasionally it backfires. After Indiana passed voter suppression, one of the first groups to be turned away from the polls was a bunch of retired nuns, presumably prepared to vote the social conservative line.

  • cmdicely on October 06, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Republican officials at multiple levels have waged a “war on voting” for much of the year

    This is true, if by "year" you mean "last several decades". It probably goes back the whole way to Nixon's Southern Strategy, but it was certainly visible in the opposition to motor-voter in the early 1990s.

  • kevin on October 06, 2011 11:27 AM:

    John Sherman--don't be so sure about the retired nuns. Many of them are quite progressive on most social and economic issues.

  • 2Manchu on October 06, 2011 11:32 AM:

    "Can you have nihilistic Fascists?" - c u n d gulag

    I dunno, I think I'm going to go with Walter in the Big Lebowski on that one:

    "I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."

  • zandru on October 06, 2011 11:38 AM:

    @Dorothy - No problem, and thanks! I first heard about the name thing a few months back, via a League of Women Voters listserv, no less. Since then, I've been totally astounded at how little play it's gotten, even in the "librul" media. "5 million" is nothing by comparison! I mean, REALLY - how many adult women still go by their birth names?

    @berttheclock - your story is tragically believable. At best, it can go down as one of those comic/sad family stories. For practical purposes, it seems to be a continuing nightmare.

    Captcha is on the case yet again: "rights Fcuring"

  • David Martin on October 06, 2011 11:52 AM:

    The birth certificate requirement for driver licenses (and state ID cards) seems to be a huge problem for women. I'm happy to have a US passport as proof of existence (but not proof of being a Florida resident, eligible to vote).

    A new Florida law has made voter registration drives nearly impossible. The League of Women Voters has given up.

  • Daniel Kim on October 06, 2011 12:09 PM:

    I had read about the tie-in with womens' suffrage, but it didn't come to mind when I first read about this here. Thanks to commenters for reminding me. This is a big problem, and an issue that doesn't really suggest itself right away to men.

  • maggie on October 06, 2011 12:30 PM:

    I hope the ACLU helps her to sue for gender descrimination.

  • Anonymous on October 06, 2011 1:26 PM:

    Political casualties or "collateral damage" cuts both ways. In 2008, a 90 plus friend of my Mother's received her absentee ballot, the cost to send it back -- $1.00 in postage. The woman who was quite well off, was outraged by the cost and decided to vote in person. In 2012, without a Florida card (basically a drivers license with no driving privileges), she'd be out of luck. Of course, getting a renewal card -- being born in PA, outliving 3 husbands, and living in several states could be a problem.

    Seniors who don't see or hear too well and dislike to deal with phone menus and probably don't use computers could have problems getting the required information.

    Then, there's another problem with absentee ballots. Most states routinely send the ballots to seniors or reminders if they've forgotten to ask for them. Many senior don't fill them out until a week or so before election day unless they've lost them in their paperwork or have accidently thrown them out with the trash. In nursing homes, a rich source of voters for young Republican college & HS groups, a State or local issued voting card has always been enough to vote with, now a photo ID is also required. As with any new procedures, people are going to forget to bring their cards along -- could be intersting on election day 2012.

  • ZRRBIT on October 07, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Oh cry me a river. A 96-year-old woman neglected to call the town hall and request (at an exorbitant cost of about $5-10) a copy of her marriage certificate... and this is somehow the Republicans' fault? Why didn't her children or grandchildren (who I assume are able to read that newfangled contraption called the interweb) help Granny get her FREE ID card? This ridiculous notion that nobody should ever have to go one step out of their way to prove who they are in order to vote is what allows me (hypothetically, of course ;) to be registered to vote with 3 different names in nine different municipalities. Gotta love living in a Democrat-controlled state (take your pick - NJ, PA, NY, IL, CA, VT, MA), none of which require ID, photo or otherwise.

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