Ninety-one-year-old Virginia Lasater has voted and worked in campaigns for some 70 years. But Wednesday she ran head-long into the barrier Tennessee’s new voter photo ID law is throwing up for some elderly people. Recently moved to Murfreesboro from her farm in Lewisburg to live with son, Richard Lasater, she registered to vote Wednesday at the Rutherford County Election Commission office but that afternoon found herself facing long lines at the driver’s license testing center in Murfreesboro. She’s never had a photo ID on her license, even though she’s still capable of driving and goes to Sunday school.
Aided by a walking cane to get around, she quickly decided she couldn’t stand up long enough to wait and her son could find no chairs available for her to sit. Richard estimated at least 100 people were in the building, and workers were “way overworked and way understaffed.” He was told at the help desk there was nothing they could do but wait. They left, upset about the law and the long lines.
“I’m just afraid people will say it’s too much trouble,” said Mrs. Lasater.
Under the law passed this year, Tennessee voters must show a photo ID in order to vote starting Jan. 1, 2012. Forms of acceptable photo IDs are driver’s licenses with a photo, a U.S. passport, federal government photo ID, U.S. military ID and gun permit card with photo. The law doesn’t apply to people who vote absentee, including those 65 or older and those who vote at a licensed nursing home.
House and Senate Democratic leaders announced this week they want to repeal the Republican-backed law, which was sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville. Ketron contends the law is needed to preserve “purity” of the ballot box and that he started pushing it four years ago because of voter fraud in Memphis during an election of Sen. Ophelia Ford.