Tennessee Agency Charges 86-Year Old Veteran An Unconstitutional Poll Tax To Obtain Voter ID

This is the second installment in an ongoing series on voting rights leading up to Election Day 2011.

Pointing to a problem that doesn’t exist, Tennessee Republicans created a voter ID law this year which, they say, will ensure that only those eligible to vote can do so. As predicted, the law is disenfranchising the poor, elderly, and minority voters, including a 96-year-old African-American woman, a 91-year old woman, and now, a 86-year old veteran.

World War II veteran Darwin Spinks went to a testing center last month to get a photo ID for voting purposes. Under the law, any resident without a photo ID is supposed to get one free of charge. But when Spinks asked for an ID, he was told he had to pay an $8 fee:

Spinks said Tuesday he needed the photo because when his driver’s license with a photo expired the last time, the driver testing center issued him a new license without a photo on it. State law allows people over 60 to get a non-photo driver’s license.

The retired print shop worker who moved here 17 years ago said he told people at the driver center he wanted an ID for voting purposes. He was sent from one line to another to have a picture taken, then was charged.

“I said, ‘You mean I’ve got to pay again?’ She says, ‘Yes,’” explained Spinks, a resident of County Farm Road, who was stationed on the USS Goshen in World War II and was called to duty again for the Korean War.

Forcing an American citizen to pay in order to vote is a clear violation of the constitution’s 24th Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or the other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” The amendment was specifically enacted in 1962 to end the poll tax, a fee that was used to prevent the black population from voting.


The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said it will send Spinks a letter and an affidavit to sign which states that he does not have a valid government-issued photo ID. Only then will they refund his $8. “If he came in for a photo ID for voting purposes, he should not have been charged,” the department stated.