Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 26, 2013

Battleground: Cherokee County

As the new Voter ID law continues to alarm the disenfranchised, a 92-year-old Jacksonville voter discusses her belief that she was forced to “Fight City Hall” to be allowed to participate in the next election.

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —

A 92-year-old Cherokee County voter said Friday she ran into an almost insurmountable wall of red tape trying to get her Voter Photo ID issued so she can be allowed to cast her ballot in the next election.

The experience of Lottie D. Horn bears similarities to the nightmare scenario outlined by statewide Democrats in reaction to the new Voter Photo ID law, which mandates that any Texas voter have authentic identification with their name and photo on it.

Many Republicans have described the measure as necessary to prevent voter fraud.

But for 92-year-old Lottie D. Horn, everything in her experience happened just the way many Democrats said it would. She said the level of bureaucratic resistance was so high it seemed to grow to the level of voter suppression.

“I just really don't see any of the sense in all this,” she said Friday during an interview at her local Jacksonville senior living facility.

Horn has been voting for years. She remembers casting ballots for President Obama in both his elections – which she considers to be her finest hour at the polls.

She can also recall voting for John F. Kennedy.

But Lottie Horn can't make any sense out of the current political fracas in which she inadvertently has been caught up. She was one of an estimated 1 million registered voters in the state (from a total of 13.5 million registered) who did not currently possess an active photo ID.

She doesn't have children or a spouse who can help her. But she does have family. Her cousin is Caesar Roy, a leader in the Cherokee County Democratic Party. His wife, Delores Roy, is an avid Democratic volunteer who is helping voters like Lottie make their way to the polls.

Photo ID laws also exist in countries such Italy, Malta, Belgium, Greece and Spain. But unlike in the U.S., these countries all possess the infrastructure to pay for photo ID costs.

Not so in America. Which is why Caesar Roy and members of the Cherokee County Democratic Party echo the alarm of their statewide and national counterparts. They maintain that the cost of attaining or re-attaining an active voter's ID in Texas amounts to a large amount of money and wasted time that shouldn't ever have to be an issue.

“Why should they have to pay to get these records from the state?” Caesar Roy asked an audience Thursday night during a meeting of the Cherokee County Democrat Party at Lupe's Restaurant in Jacksonville.

Photo ID law supporters believe that the inconvenience of attaining identification is negligible when compared to the threat of ineligible voters tampering with elections.

But opponents say the laws and the troubles they cause for the many people who can't hurdle bureaucratic obstacles prevent elderly voters, minority voters and handicapped voters from casting ballots.

For Lottie Horn, voting is not a privilege, but a responsibility she takes very seriously. So when she learned about the new law she simply went with it and tried to get her ID.

But then, she said, the ridiculousness began.

Despite having an expired driver's license with her image already on it, she said the local Texas Department of Public Safety told her she would have to go to the Bureau of Vital Statistics and get officials there to issue a document declaring she had “no birth certificate.”

Other items of proof the DPS required included a copy of any marriage license she may have had, a social security card, and a letter from her senior home saying she was a resident there. All before any photo ID could be issued for the sole purpose of voting.

She also was required to producer a copy of the Census Record that first listed her as part of a Jacksonville household at age 18 in 1940.

Even after her nursing home issued a paper verifying she lives there, the DPS declared that the document had to be notarized – finding a notary public can be hard work for someone in their 90s.

Luckily, Delores Roy is a Notary Public. But without her help, this situation could very well have gone another way – and probably does for many voters out there who do not speak out about the red tape, she said.

In addition to her voting ID from the state, Lottie also received a state voting card and a paper version of a Texas Department of Public Safety voter ID, which is an exact duplicate to the versions issued to youths waiting for their first Texas ID or driver's license to arrive in the mail.

All in all, simply getting ready to vote was a very frustrating endeavor. Delores Roy has accumulated a packet packed full of identification material that had to be attained and verified before the DPS would consent to mailing Horn a Voter's photo ID.

Lottie Horn said she is very appreciative to her cousin's wife for all the assistance she has provided on her own time – and her own dime.

“She does everything but eat for me,” Lottie said with a smile.

Delores Roy said it was a pleasure to help Lottie take care of her business.

“I've been helping her with things for awhile – with matters such as bank accounts,” Mrs. Roy explained.

Now that Lottie Horn has her Voter ID, wherever she goes to vote, election judges or workers will bring her ballot to her car so she won't have to exert herself going inside or standing in line. This is a courtesy extended to many senior citizens in the state.

Caesar Roy gave a complete accounting of his cousin's voting difficulties to the Cherokee County Democrat group Thursday night – to many shocked gasps at the amount of difficulty Lottie Horn experienced.

It was obvious that any perceived discrimination against the elderly strikes a sore spot with this group, many of whose members are old enough to fully understand the implications of voter suppression of the elderly.

It is probably telling in regard to the general age of the group that two members had to get up and leave the Thursday around sundown because they had difficulty driving home in the dark.

Politically-speaking, this Cherokee County Democrat group has been very busy these days,

Members are waist-deep in supporting the “Battleground Texas” initiative, a Democrat Party movement that aims at increasing their political influence in the state while eliminating that of Republicans.

There's also their battle against the restrictions being placed on abortion rights in the state of Texas.

Joanna Reagan, a prominent member of Cherokee County's Democrat party, recently issued statement emphasizing solidarity with Wendy Davis, the state senator who held a ten-hour long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, legislation that would create new abortion regulations in Texas.

Despite the efforts of Davis, the measure was passed, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law on July 18.

During and after the filibuster, Reagan has been fiercely supportive of Davis.

“We stand with Senator Wendy Davis in opposing attempts by the Texas State House to Limit Women's access to health and reproductive care,” Reagan said in an issued statement. “The effort to silence women's voices both in committee and on the senate floor has angered and mobilized Texas women.”

 

Ben Tinsley, a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter with over 25 years in the journalism industry, can be contacted by email, btinsley@jacksonvilleprogress.com, or call him at 903-586-2236.

Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/bentinsley or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12