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Woman votes under little-used exemption

4:28 PM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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By Joey Garrison / The Tennessean 

Cora Beach still doesn't have a state-issued photo ID, but she voted on Thursday anyway after county election officials told her about a rarely used exemption in the state's new voter ID law.

One day after The Tennessean reported on Beach's difficulty in obtaining photo identification to vote, the 56-year-old Beach, on the last day of early voting, signed an affidavit that she is "indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without paying a fee."

In doing so, Beach was able to vote at the Davidson County Election Commission office by taking advantage of a clause in the state's new voter identification law that gives photo ID exemptions to voters who claim religious objections to being photographed or to the indigent.

"It turned out all right," said Beach, who lives on disability payments and has kidney failure.

In the election's top race, she said she cast her vote for President Obama.

Davidson County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche said Beach is the only person he's aware of in Nashville who has voted by signing an affidavit declaring herself indigent. His office reached out to her after reading about her situation in The Tennessean.

On three occasions in recent weeks, Beach had visited driver vehicle centers in Davidson County, only to have her application to acquire a photo ID turned down. She lacked marriage licenses, including one from a previous residence in Ohio, to allow officials to trace her birth name of Cora Jones to her current last name of Beach.

According to Tieche, The Tennessean's report on Beach's dilemma alerted local election officials, who contacted Beach and made her aware that she could sign a sworn statement that she is indigent.

Beach said no one told her of the option earlier, including on her unsuccessful trips to the state-operated driving centers.

Asked how the election commission is notifying voters of the option, Tieche pointed to the training of poll workers: "We train all of our poll officials on these two exceptions," he said. "They all know this."

Besides claiming religious objections or indigence, the following voters are exempt from the state's voter ID law: voters who vote absentee by mail, are hospitalized or who are residents of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center and who vote at the facility.

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