Longtime state employee may be blocked from voting - WSMV Channel 4

Longtime state employee may be blocked from voting

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One woman who has been voting for more than eight decades in this state was told this week she may no longer be eligible to vote.

She's worked four years at the Tennessee State Capitol and has her old state ID, but that's not good enough under the new voter ID law.

Thelma Mitchell cleaned this governor's office for his entire term. She has been a fixture at the State Capitol for more than 30 years, yet this year she was told "you're no longer allowed to vote."

"I ain't missed a governor's election since (Frank) Clement got to be the governor," said Mitchell.

The 93-year-old Mitchell voted for the first time in 1931, soon after women gained the right to vote in the United States.

"It meant a lot to me," said Mitchell.

Mitchell worked as a maid cleaning the State Capitol, specifically the governor's office.

She has known governors, legislators and council members personally for decades.

This week Mitchell found out her old state ID with her picture on it is no longer enough to qualify her to vote.

"When he told me I may be in this country illegally, I said I've been over here all my life," said Mitchell.

The state's new voter ID law means Mitchell now needs a birth certificate to get a new picture ID.

Mitchell was born in Stevenson, Ala., in 1918. She was delivered by a midwife and has never had a birth certificate.

Her niece is not sure one even exists anymore.

"She's worked here 30 years," said niece Beverly Jones. "I mean, she is 93. What more would they want?

"Do any changes need to be made? I think that's obviously up to the legislature."

Governor Bill Haslam signed the voter ID bill into law this summer. He said they are now focused on helping make the process convenient for people like Mitchell.

Mitchell and her nieces are considering suing the state.

"If it's put her in this position, it's probably put a lot more people in this position," said Jones. "People are living longer. It's a right (to vote). They struggled at getting the right to vote, and that's their right."

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to sue the state in the new year and bills have already been filed challenging the voter ID law.

For now, the governor is not openly supporting any specific changes.

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