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Monday, November 7, 2011

Riverview Seniors Up in Arms About Voter Picture I-D

"Our folk died, just have the right to vote years ago.. why change the rules now?

Mrs. "Miss Pinkie" Horton

It was a cool, sunny Saturday morning, when Mrs. "Miss Pinkie" Horton set out to take her sister-in-law Bernice to get a new photo I-D. A photo I-D is now required to be able to vote in Tennessee.

"I saw it in the paper that she needed to have that, and I've always voted at the Civic Auditorium," she says, "so we went there."

Apparently unbeknownst to 84-year-old 'Miss Pinkie' and 77-year-old 'Miss Bernice,' photo I-D's are only being done at Tennessee's driver license centers on the first Saturday of every month to avoid the long lines during the week. Furthering the mixup, somehow they got re-directed to the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex, a building totally locked up for the weekend.

"I've always had a driver's license that did not require a picture," says 'Miss Bernice.' "Having a picture cost more, and any little place where I could save money, I do. My license with no picture has always been my identification. It's crazy for them (state lawmakers) to require photo I-D's now. I wondered why they did that, and, thinking about it you know, I think I know why now."

Thinking about a change that did not seem necessary, the two sisters-in-law were in complete agreement about why a photo I-D is now required to vote in Tennessee. In fact, they are quite blunt about it.

"I think they're trying to keep black folk from voting for Obama," says Miss Pinkie. 'Miss Bernice' was just as vocal.

"I think they (state lawmakers) are just putting one more thing in the way to keep the black seniors and the other elderly, from being able to vote," she says.. "because they know we're voting for Obama."


The photo I-D measure was sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggert (R-Hendersonville), who says the law is "a needed tool to prevent voter fraud." A story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Tennessee Republicans have said there have been episodes in the past, plus other cases that have likely gone undetected because the state has not required voters to present a photo I-D. ABC News reports that states with strict voter photo I-D laws more than tripled in 2011.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) has gone so far as to offer rides to anyone needing to get to the driver's license centers to get a photo I-D for people who need one to vote.

Two sisters-in-law from Kingsport's Riverview community would have probably taken him up on that offer.

Since 'Miss Pinkie' is still driving at the age of 84, she already had a photo I-D in the form of a Tennessee driver's license, so for her sister-in-law, Douglass website manager Calvin, who was working at V.O. Dobbins that Saturday, directed them to the Tennessee driver's license center for Sullivan County, the only authorized place to get a state-issued photo I-D on the first Saturday of every month.

That center is 14 miles from Kingsport, just north of Blountville on U.S. Highway 11-W.. an almost 30-mile round trip for the Riverview seniors.

"Traffic wasn't too bad," says 'Miss Pinkie.' "People zoomed by us, but that was all right. We can't get in a hurry, and I don't like to drive very fast."


As luck would have it, a news crew from WCYB-TV, Channel 5 was at the driver's license center, doing a story on photo I-D's. 'Miss Bernice' was interviewed for the story, but because the story was aimed from a positive viewpoint on the ease of getting a photo I-D on Saturday, she says, she did not get to tell the reporter what she really thought of the new requirement. She says, she was disappointed that she was never asked if there was a negative aspect to having to have a photo I-D to vote.

"If they would have asked me that, they might have heard a different story," she says.

'Miss Bernice' did receive a driver's license with her photo on it, but says, she felt as if she was being held hostage having to pay extra for her picture, just to be able to vote.

"It was a put-down for me," she says. "Saturday was the only I could do it, and then I had to catch a ride, drive 30 miles, to get a photo I-D on a driver's license that I don't need. We had to use the gas and risk all those fast drivers and it was like, nobody was listening to us once we got there. They were nice enough, but I don't like being forced to get one just to vote."

"No matter," she says. "I'm voting for Obama anyway."


The irony of the situation is not lost on the seniors.

"Why is a photo I-D necessary now?" 'Miss Bernice' wants to know. "I was able to vote before and nothing was wrong. We had to sign our name, we had to prove our address, we had to show where we had voted before, and that was it. Now we have to show them a picture of us. What was wrong with the other stuff? We're the same people we were before. What difference is it gonna make?"

"They're trying to pull the wool over our eyes," 'Miss Pinkie' surmised. "You have a spirit about you, that tells you what people are up to. They're trying to keep our folk from voting for Obama again. Our folk died just to have the right to vote. We (African-Americans) had to have a special law back in the 60's just to be able to vote (the Voting Rights Act of 1965)."

After that 30-mile round trip they had just made, 'Miss Pinkie' ventured a sobering observation.

"Seems like you almost have to die now just to be able to vote."