'I took the oath to prevent these kinds of laws'...
By Brad Friedman on 3/6/2012, 11:48am PT  

55-year old former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson was turned away from the polls today, Super Tuesday 2012, in the state of Tennessee, after refusing to present a photo ID before voting, as required by a new law recently passed by Republicans.

Thompson was documented by videographers attempting to cast his vote under the new polling place Photo ID restrictions instituted by TN's Republican-majority legislature and signed into law last year by the state's Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The former Lance Corporal, who left the service in 1978, has lived in Nashville since 2004 when he first cast his vote at the same precinct where he was turned away today. In an act of protest, planned in advance and video-taped by a number of media outlets, Thompson refused to show any more than the voter registration card he has previously used for voting in the state.

Video of the confrontation that ensued is posted below.

"This is my voter registration card," Thompson said as he challenged the poll supervisor. "I've used this for 37 years. This was good enough for my father. This was good enough for my grandfather, and I refuse to show you a picture ID"...

After refusing to vote on a provisional ballot, which may or may not be counted after an election, Thompson tells the supervisor, "I'm objecting to the law that they implemented on my right to vote."

"I served my country. I served my country so you can vote. I've earned my right to vote. This is my ID," he is seen explaining angrily in the video, as he points to the U.S. Marine insignia on his jacket.

"I'll be damned if I'll stand here and allow you to not let me vote because some governor of this state decided he wanted to eliminate my right to vote --- and put conditions on it --- that I fought for."

"I took an oath in 1974 that stated I want to defend and protect American citizens on their rights to vote --- their basic right to vote in an open and free election. But I guess he [Gov. Haslam] forgot about his, his oath. He did forget about his oath, because he's not protecting our rights. And it's a slap in our face," Thompson says during the confrontation.

The former Marine turned chef in Nashville is just the latest of those to confront and/or be confronted by new draconian restrictions on voting rights this year, as passed by Republicans in more than a dozen states in the wake of their 2010 electoral victories. In TN today, for the first time, those without state-issued Photo ID (a U.S. passport, a federal photo ID, a U.S. military ID or a gun permit card with photo) must receive a state-issued Photo ID prior to casting a vote at the polling place, from a Department of Safety and Homeland Security facility at one of 48 Driver Service Centers across the state, according to the Department's website.

"Student ID cards from state universities are NOT acceptable," the site states.

Critics of such restrictions have documented how minorities, the elderly and students --- all who tend to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates --- are far more likely than the general population to lack the ID required under such laws and to be disenfranchised in the bargain.

In order to obtain a state-issued ID prior to Election Day in TN, the state website explains, "Proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate)" must be presented, along with "Two proofs of Tennessee residency."

Objecting to the necessity of paying for a copy of a birth certificate in order to receive a "free" Photo ID from the state, Thompson says during his confrontation with the poll worker: "So what you're telling me is this payment, of my life in the Marine Corps, is not good enough anymore. What I gotta do is pay cash money to vote, to get a right to vote."

As the TN Dept. of Homeland Security and Safety website notes [emphasis theirs]: "The new law requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote applies only to those voting at polling places."

That, despite the fact that independent study after study, even those by proponents of these new disenfranchising laws, have shown that in-person polling place voter impersonation. --- the only type of voter fraud that might be deterred by such restrictions --- is extraordinarily rare, even as nearly half a million legally registered voters in TN could serve to be disenfranchised by the new law. Such restrictions have no effect on either the much more common practice of absentee ballot voter fraud or the far greater concern of insider election fraud, such as manipulation of voter rolls, ballots, voting machines or computerized tabulators.

Recently, we reported on a number of voters who were turned away from polling places in Wisconsin for lack of a valid Photo ID for voting purposes, despite legally having voted in the very same precinct for decades prior. Last month, in a small state primary, that state, like Tennessee, saw its first full implementation of a similar polling place Photo ID restriction passed by Republicans. One of those we reported on at the time was a former service member who presented his federal Veterans' ID, which includes a photograph, when he tried to vote. Under the Wisconsin GOP's version of the polling place ID restrictions, however, that card was not allowable for voting.

"I gave them four years of my life, why shouldn’t I be able to use my vet’s card?," 69-year old Gil Paar reportedly asked in comments echoed by fellow veteran Thompson today. "This is not right. You’ve got a guy who serves, does his time in the Air Force, or Army or the Navy, and then he comes home and can’t vote? What the f—- did I go in for?,” Paar was quoted as saying.

Thompson accuses the polling place supervisor who was following the law in TN today of "spitting on the graves" of those who gave their lives in service to this country.

"Where do you get off?," he says to worker who was forced to explain the new law. "I get off following the law and obeying the oath I swore," the poll worker says in reply to the former Marine who chooses to leave without casting a vote.

As noted in the description included in the YouTube posting of the Thompson video this morning: "He left without voting even though he has proper identification, saying he was protesting on behalf of the potentially millions of people who may lose their right to vote because they are unable to obtain the legally required government-issued IDs."

Late last year, in the wake of passage of TN's new law, we documented the story of Thelma Mitchell, the 93-year old African-American woman who cleaned the state capitol for 30 years, including the office of the Governor. Her expired state ID, she was told, would not meet the requirements for voting under the new laws. However, as she was born by a midwife in 1918, she never had a birth certificate. While attempting to obtain a voting ID at the State Drivers Center, she was reportedly told by the clerk that she might be an illegal immigrant.

In October of last year, we told the story of Tennessee's 96-year old Dorothy Cooper. Though she was born before women had the right to vote in this country, and then had voted for some 70 years without a problem --- even during the years of Jim Crow in the South --- she was unable to receive her "free" ID when she had attempted to do so. She had been able to present her birth certificate and several other forms of ID to prove her residency when attempting to receive her "free" ID, however her named was changed when she got married decades ago, and she had been unable to find her marriage license to present to the state. Without that, she was unable to prove her U.S. citizenship as required by the new voter suppression law.

These stories, and many others like them, as we've been reporting for months, are likely to become more and more frequent as more formerly legal U.S. citizen voters find themselves without the right to vote in free and fair elections as the 2012 Presidential Election cycle heats up, and as more such laws around the country begin to take effect.

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Former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson's confrontation with Tennessee poll workers today, over the state's new polling place Photo ID restriction follows below. He was taped by, among others, the producers of Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections, an award-winning 2008 documentary on electronic voting in which --- for full disclosure --- we happen to appear...

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviews the feisty 96-year old Dorothy Cooper late last year after she had learned that even her birth certificate was note sufficient for receiving a state-issued ID to vote in Tennessee under the new GOP voting rights restrictions...


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UPDATE: The Tennessean's coverage of the story included this quote from Thompson: "We just fought a war to bring democracy to Iraq. Now, we’re passing laws that restrict and bring conditions to our right to vote. I sacrificed my right to vote in order to make this statement."

Nashville Public Radio also covered the story today and quoted Thompson as saying, "The thing that sticks in my craw is, I took the oath. I took the oath to prevent these kinds of law from being in effect, that discriminate against certain people that they’re supposed to protect."

He went on to tell them: "I’m not prejudiced against Democrat or Republican. They’re all Americans to me. That’s who I fought for. That’s who I protect their rights, right now. And that’s why I demonstrated today, against this law."

Finally for now, local NewsChannel 5 was there as he went to vote. They report on Thompson's protest this way...

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