Most people would have just paid the $8 fee to obtain a photo ID required to vote in Tennessee. Not Lee Campbell. The retired teacher and his wife fought for their right to a free photo ID and on Monday went to Capitol Hill to complain about what he called a “poll tax.”
Campbell, a Utah native who taught and served as a teacher and a guidance counselor for 42 years and has voted in every presidential election since 1964, testified before a panel sponsored by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that he “experienced first-hand the harmful impact of all these voting changes that are springing up across America.”
Campbell said he had to “fight for my right to have a voter ID be given to me according to the law’s intent — FREE.”
“I traveled to my local DMV and I approached the worker at the information desk and stated that my wife was here and wanted to obtain the FREE voter ID,” Campbell said. “The person responded with a non verbal sigh, a sigh in effect indicated ‘oh no, not that.’ The worker then suggested why not just get a duplicate license for a fee of $8? Cognizant of the fact that a senior citizen friend, Mr. Steve Blankenship of Murfreesboro, in the previous month had PAID the $8 fee, I replied, ‘no, we want the FREE voter photo.’”
Campbell testified that the worker went up to three different employees and told him there would be no charge. But Campbell said the process delayed the line, which was already about 30 people deep. From Campbell’s testimony:
I want to state right now that paying the $8 fee was not the question as we could easily afford that. The point was the state legislature in passing this law had emphasized that the photo was to be free. Otherwise, in my opinion the fee could be considered a poll tax.
Campbell said he and his wife had to wait 58 minutes to get her photo ID. He said that he’s concluded that unless a person “stands their ground,” the drivers’ testing center is going to charge a fee for the photo.
He also testified that he ran into a former teaching colleague last week who is 80-years-old and requires a cane.
“This person stated that voting was out of the question in the future. The principle reason is waiting in a long line to get a photograph,” Campbell said.
“The person then stated that perhaps a relative would take said person to the Drivers’ Testing Center. Whether this person ever votes again is highly speculative,” he said.
“In conclusion, I agree with something I read in the press recently —— this Voter Photo law is a ‘solution in need of a problem’,” Campbell testified.
The panel featured speakers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.