"I'm shaken up. I mean, I've never done anything like this before," 55-year old former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson said after being turned away from the polling place for refusing to show a Photo ID when attempting to vote on Super Tuesday under a new Tennessee restriction on voting rights passed by Republican lawmakers.
Last week, we told you about Thompson and his protest at the same Nashville polling place where he'd voted for years without incident. It was the first state election in TN in which state-issued Photo ID was required in exchange for the right to vote at a polling place.
Though Thompson presented his voter registration card as sent to him by the state, it was not enough under the new law to allow him to vote on a normal ballot. "I've used this for 37 years," the former Lance Corporal is seen on video telling the precinct supervisor at the poll. "This was good enough for my father. This was good enough for my grandfather, and I refuse to show you a picture ID," he said.
The new law was passed in TN despite tens of of thousands of legally registered --- disproportionately Democratic-leaning --- voters who lack the requisite ID now needed to vote. Many of them are likely to be disenfranchised this year. Among such voters we've reported on previously in the state: 96-year old Dorothy Cooper and 93-year old Thelma Mitchell, to name just two who had been able to vote for decades there without a problem --- even through the Jim Crow era --- until this year.
Thompson's complete confrontation with the poll worker can be seen in video we published here last week. The story was also picked up by a number of local media outlets and, later that night, by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Part of it was played during an appearance we made on RT TV, as seen around the world, earlier this week.
Today, documentary filmmaker David Earnhardt, director of the award-winning Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections, shares his behind-the-scenes video of what happened before, during and after Thompson's protest. [FULL DISCLOSURES: Earnhardt happens to be the brother-in-law of Thompson, and we happen to appear in Uncounted, but it's an excellent film anyway.]
This short and inspiring documentary offers insight into the reasons for Thompson's protest. He explains that he hopes his fight to help restore the rights taken away from Tennessee voters may inspire others to stand up for our democracy, both in his state and elsewhere around the country where similar restrictions have recently been enacted.
In this video, Thompson is seen explaining to media on hand to interview him after he'd left the polling place last Tuesday: "When I took my oath, it was for all people, all Americans --- Republican, Democrat, black, white. It didn't matter what color you were or what religion you believed in. It didn't matter. It was for all Americans. That's what Marines fight for."
"I was willing to sacrifice my vote to stand up today and represent all the people that's not going to be able to vote," says Thompson. "Don't let your right to vote stop because these politicians have passed a law that limits your vote, that's exactly what they want to do"...
But there is now more to the inspiring story, underscoring again how one person standing up for their rights really can make a difference...
On Wednesday, a Subcommittee in the TN Legislature held a hearing on a bill that would repeal the discriminatory law. Thompson was asked to testify at the hearing before four Republicans, three Democrats and one independent (a fifth Republican was not present that day).
After his testimony, the State and Local Government Subcommittee voted in favor of repealing the disenfranchising Photo ID bill! All three Democrats, the Independent and one of the Republicans joined together to vote for repeal. The bill will now move to the full Committee and then, if successful, to the General Assembly for a final vote on passage. It still faces very long odds as the fight is nowhere near finished, according to Thompson --- who we interviewed last night on the Mike Malloy Show --- but this was a tremendous victory.
You can read more about the hearing at the Knoxville News Sentinel here.
Thompson's testimony before the Subcommittee follows below, and includes this: "Remember, we're all Americans. This law is a slap in the face to all the soldiers who fought and died for this country. It has no place in America"...
Thank you, Tim Thompson. Semper fi.