Letter: Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

After re-reading Mike Gibson's article on the Tennessee Voter Photo ID Law ["Ballot Box Bullies," Citybeat, Nov. 24, 2011], I could find no references to the parts of this law that are potentially unconstitutional, illegal, and odious. If you are going to tell this story, and explain to those who state that it was intended "only to prevent voter fraud," I would ask that you do a follow-up to list the reasons why this law is unconstitutional.

As the law that passed is currently written, it violates of Amendment XXIV of our Constitution, which forbids charging a "poll tax" or any other tax for being allowed to vote. This law has three possible "taxes, fees, or expenses" built in to discourage voting.

The first reason is the fact that potential voters, seniors who do not have photos on their driver's license, as well as students who do not have a driver's license or photo ID, have to travel to the nearest full service driver's license center. Currently, 53 of our 95 counties have no DL centers at all. Thus, this would impose an expense of travel to the nearest county full service DL center. Also, those who have jobs in their home county would have to take off work to go to the closest center, and wait times will be long at some centers.

The second possible fee includes the fact that seniors who do not have an accepted ID, certifying their citizenship, i.e., no birth certificate, would have to order a copy, at a charge of $8 to $15, depending on the state where they were born.

And the third possible tax is the fact that some citizens have already been charged fees for these photo ID cards, thus a blatant poll tax. (This has happened, even though the State Election Commission insists one can get these cards "free.") Your article mentions Mrs. Cooper in Chattanooga, [but not] the elderly lady, first name "Virginia," who was denied her photo ID card, nor the couple from Rutherford County who went to Congress to testify that they had to pay a fee, nor the 60-year old veteran who was also charged a fee for his ID card.

You need to tell all potential voters who fall into these categories that might prevent them from gaining access to a "Tennessee Voter Photo ID Card" that our Tennessee Democratic Party is going to announce our plan, in January, to reassure these folks that we will help them gain access to register to be able to vote next year. And that they can learn more of the facts about this odious law by going to our website: tndp.com. And the numbers of potential voters who might be negatively impacted are estimated to be from 300,000 to 600,000 Tennesseans. Let them know that if they need help with attaining their right to vote, to contact us.

Mary L. Wilson

Knox County Democratic Party, District 1