Last week, I tagged along while my wife took her mom, Bonnie, to the DMV so she could get a photo on her valid driver's license. Sixteen states have recently enacted restrictive voting laws, and Tennessee is doing its part by requiring most people (although there are exceptions, which I'll mention later) to have a photo license to vote. While it may not sound like a big deal; it was a very big deal for Bonnie. She has fought back from two strokes in three years and suffers from high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Never-the-less, she was determined to make the trek in order to exercise her right to vote.
Arriving at the DMV, we quickly got a number; then sat down to wait" and wait. After an hour, Bonnie was getting weak and, even though she wouldn't admit it; her back was hurting. We finally figured out that you can go a kiosk to get processed for a new license. You need to be pretty handy with touch screens to navigate through the IPads, and my wife and I got stuck on one question and had to ask for assistance. After filling out multiple pages and paying an $8.00 fee with a credit card, we rejoined Bonnie in the waiting area. In just a few minutes, Bonnie was called up to the desk to have her picture taken and issued a new "photo" license.
While Bonnie is a courageous woman, she physically wouldn't have been able to wait for multiple hours at the DMV, and she certainly wouldn't have been able to submit her request through the kiosk (all while standing up). So, without help, Bonnie would not have been able to get her photo identification, which means her right to vote would have effectively been taken away. I don't know how many more "Bonnies" are out there. Tragically, there are many who don't have someone to take them to get a photo ID, or may not be able to wait for hours at the DMV, or have an extra $8.00.
I could understand this inconvenience if Tennessee was having a problem with voter ID fraud. However, at most, there have only been a couple of isolated cases. The major fraud this year involved a RNC consulting group that dropped off fake voter registrations in Florida; and this law wouldn't prevent that. No, this law has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with suppressing the vote of minorities and the poor, groups that often vote Democrat. Because hunters tend to vote Republican, this carefully crafted law allows an expired hunting license from another state (with no photo) to serve as an ID. But not Bonnie's valid Tennessee driver's license.
Senior citizens may have been the unintended victims of this blatantly political legislation. But, like so many other minority groups who are least able to defend themselves, they are suffering the consequences. Not only is this bad legislature, it's immoral, and Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves for playing politics with democracy. I can only hope that others affected by this law will show the same determination Bonnie did, and fight for their right to vote. And while I don't know whom Bonnie will vote for, I have a feeling she will remember who made her make an unnecessary trip to the DMV.
Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book, Hometown Prophet. To see a video of "Bonnie's Trip to the DMV," click on the link at the top of the page, or go to the Hometown Prophet website (http://www.hometownprophetbook.com/) and click on "Visit Our Blog."