Voting Nightmare For The Elderly

Sunday, May 18, 2014
I wasn’t surprised to read a story in today’s news similar to my own story, or I should say my dad’s story, the one about the elderly women who were turned away from voting because they didn’t have a ‘valid’ picture ID. I wonder how many others faced the same dilemma. What’s an octogenarian or a nonagenarian to do, not to mention our centenarians?

My dad is turning 92 in two weeks.  My sister in Kentucky and I ‘share’ him and enjoy his company immensely, but for some reason while he was visiting with her this last stay, she decided to get a valid Kentucky picture ID for him, obviously useless in Tennessee. He just recently has returned to me for the summer months, and just in time for voting. To my dismay just a few days before voting, I discovered what my sister had innocently and unknowingly done.  I don’t think dad has missed a single voting opportunity so I wanted to make sure that he was able to vote on May 6.  Since I had been through this drill when he originally moved here from New Jersey six years ago, I knew what I had to do.  After all, the first attempt to get him to be a ‘legal Tennessean’ ended up in three trips to the Bonny Oaks DMV because each time we didn’t have the necessary documentation. With the hassle of it all, if he hadn’t had me to help out, he surely would have given up since he had given up driving years ago. 

So here we go again, off to the Bonny Oaks DMV documentation in hand, ready to do battle!!  I planned the trip so that it wouldn’t be the first or last day of the month, wouldn’t be between the hours of twelve and two which is lunch break for most people, and would get their right before closing in hopes of everyone having been there and gone way before I got there. Was I ever WRONG!! Seeing a full parking lot, I parked in the handicapped space since dad is handicapped and has a legal placard and told him to wait in the car until I surveyed the situation.  There was not one empty seat in the facility and the marquee scrolled a message indicating that there were “thirty people ahead of you” but no indication of wait time.  A no-brainer-my dad and I would have had to sit there for no less than two hours or more in my estimation. As nonagenarians age, so does their patience!  So being the clever one I drove across town to the Red Bank DMV where there were three cars in the parking lot and to my astonishment only three people ahead of us!! We were in and out in fifteen minutes and could not have had a more pleasant experience. I know which DMV I will be visiting in the future even though it is a thirty to forty minute drive from where I live. However, plan to ride by it at least one time because it is so poorly marked and set back from the road.

So if you are facing this dilemma for the upcoming election, please be sure to try to have necessary documentation and not wait till the last minute. Dad was born in 1922 so finding a birth certificate for him would have been difficult if not next to impossible. Your polling place card is not enough as it does not have your picture and clearly states “picture ID required”.  Dad and mom travelled quite a bit in their younger years so they had passports.  Even though these were long expired, the passport was on file at DMV from our first visit and considered a legal viable document.  An original Social Security Card is also required.  I kept my father’s SS card in a safe deposit box so that was easily accessible. I would suggest scanning an original SS card for backup, put it is a safe file, but do not carry it in your wallet!! If one is not available now would be the time to go to the Social Security Administration for a replacement.  I would also suggest not waiting till the last minute to do all of this.  If you do have a picture ID from DMV, be sure it is from Tennessee.  You will have to turn in whatever existing photo ID you have that resembles a driver’s license-Dad had to turn over his Kentucky identification in order to get the Tennessee ID. But most of all do not let happen to you what happened to those women and undoubtedly countless others who could not stand up for themselves on voting day.

My purpose in sending this letter was to let people know that if they are aware of an elderly person who may not have relatives, caretakers or persons to help them out with a successful voting experience, please reach out to them and help them in any way you can. We cannot sit back and watch them be deprived of their right to vote.

Donna Horn

East Brainerd

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