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Ninety-Two Year Old Woman Loses Right to Vote Due to Expired Drivers License in Alabama

Polling place Photo ID voter suppression laws work. Alabama has proved that once again over the past 24 hours.

Yesterday we covered the story of 93-year old Willie Mims, the African-American man who was turned away from the polling place in Alabama for lack of a Photo ID, after having voted successfully in nearly every election since WWII.

Mims had a drivers license, but it had expired. So, according to the polling place Photo ID restriction law enacted by state Republicans, even though Mims would have had his photo on it and even an address that matched his voter registration, he was not allowed to cast his vote during yesterday’s primary election.

But Mims was hardly the only one who was kept from voting yesterday, under the first official statewide run of the AL GOP’s polling place Photo ID law. (The law was passed in 2011, but didn’t take effect until now, since the state was waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to knock down the section of the Voting Rights Act that would likely have blocked the racially discriminatory statute from taking effect.)

Kay Campbell of AL.com shared this story yesterday of another long time voter who lost her right to vote thanks to the same law…

A Huntsville woman, 92, who has lived in the same house in Huntsville for 57 years and voted in every election since she was eligible, was turned away from the polls today because her driver’s license expired nine months ago.

The voter, a great-grandmother to five, was deeply embarrassed by the whole incident and declined to talk directly with AL.com, but she gave her go-ahead for her neighbor, who took her to the polls, to relay the incident, with the provision that her name not be used.

The license had expired in August 2013. She had not renewed it because her eyesight is failing and she has made the tough decision to quit driving. But she thought since it was so recent, it would work. She uses it to cash checks and in other rare incidences when she is asked for an ID.

As we also noted yesterday, via MSNBC’s Zachary Roth, Alabama has a loophole built into the law, which the NAACP Legal Defense fund describes [PDF] as “an illegal relic of the Jim Crow South”. It allows a voter without the very specific state-issued Photo ID now required to cast a ballot, to vote anyway so long as two poll workers at the precinct can vouch for them.

Campbell reports that Libba Nicholson, the neighbor who drove the elderly woman to the polling place, “said that the woman in charge of the Help Desk asked the other poll workers if any of them recognized her – just one more verification would have done it, Nicholson said, but no one did.”

And then there was this…

The elderly woman decided against casting a provisional ballot, because she was pretty certain she would not be able to arrange for the rides to get a new ID by Friday, the deadline for establishing identity under the new law.

In the case of the 93-year old African-American man Mims, he was turned away from the polling place without even being offered the option of casting a provisional ballot, reportedly. At least this 92-year old woman (who is reportedly Caucasian) was offered the option of voting provisionally.

But, as is the case in most of these Republican-enacted laws, provisional voters still need to show up at county election headquarters with a Photo ID before a short deadline in order for that provisional ballot to actually be tallied.

Given that those who don’t have a Photo ID also do not have a driver’s license, it’s no easy feat for them to show up again at county headquarters days later, even if they are able to find (and/or afford) the needed documents to receive a so-called “free” Photo ID from yet another state agency before they are then required to present themselves at county election HQ in order to have their vote finally counted.

Polling place Photo ID voter suppression laws work. Alabama has proved that once again over the past 24 hours. Republicans, no doubt, are high-fiving each other, and licking their chops with anticipation for all of the other otherwise-eligible voters —- largely minority, elderly, student or poor (read: Democratic-leaning) —- who will no longer be able to vote in elections in the state, unless this discriminatory, completely unnecessary law is overturned.

And, as we asked yesterday, with the U.S. Dept. of Justice already having filed federal lawsuits to block nearly identical laws in Texas and in North Carolina, as violations of both the U.S. Constitution and the still-standing parts of the Voting Rights Act, why have they yet to file a complaint against Alabama’s clearly discriminatory anti-voting law?

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