Here’s an article I’m going to share with you because I saw it on twitter and it’s just sooo silly: “What It Feels Like to Be Disenfranchised by a Voter ID Law; I had a birth certificate, a photo ID, and utility bills proving my residency. But Tennessee decided that wasn’t good enough.” This is one of a series of articles in Vice that take the form of first-person accounts of Why I Didn’t Vote.
The story is this: the author was a student at Vanderbilt University. He registered to vote online, but was prevented from voting because Tennessee required a Tennessee driver’s license (or state ID), and he had planned to use his Georgia driver’s license. Why didn’t he change his license? Here’s his explanation:
My wife and I were the a strange situation of being young and married, but still somewhat financially dependent on our parents. Our vehicles were registered in our parents’ names, and we had Georgia driver’s licenses. Registering the vehicles in Tennessee would have incurred a pretty significant tax burden, and getting a Tennessee driver’s license, we were led to believe by our insurance agents, would be a problem for us to since then we’d be listed as drivers on our parents’ cars without Georgia licenses. So we were in this space where we feared losing our transportation or having to incur a significant financial burden if we tried to get Tennessee driver’s licenses.
But he misses the fact that he was eligible for, and could have requested, a Georgia absentee ballot. A twitter user identified the relevant section of the Georgia code, “rules for determining residence,” thinking it was a slam dunk that the author was being treated unjustly — but it actually pretty nicely clarified that “temporary” absence (such as attending a university elsewhere) doesn’t prevent one from continuing to vote as a Georgia resident. If, on the other hand, this individual was living in Tennessee year-round, and had no real intention to return to Georgia except for family visits, then those cars needed to have their registration changed to Tennessee, and they were defrauding the state by trying to avoid paying Tennessee taxes (and possibly defrauding the insurance company as well if their rates were based on Georgia residence).
And, yes, I know that there are other reports of polling places being closed in ways that make it more difficult for carless folk to make it to the polls, and ongoing controversies about voter ID, and I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s perfectly appropriate for states to require picture ID but that those states should be required to make it as easy as possible for residents to obtain those identification cards, even to the point of providing transportation for rural folk or coming out to small towns as needed.
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:California_Drivers_License.jpg; By dmv.ca.gov (dmv.ca.gov) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons