Annals of the Photo-ID Law: The Case of Jesse Faye Thayer

If the story of this 91-year-old lady in Bartlett doesn't tell you what's wrong with the law, nothing will.



This newspaper has carried several articles and editorials on the subject of Tennessee’s year-old Photo-ID law, passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and, as of now, binding on all elections in the state this year and henceforward.

None of what we have heretofore published is as eloquent as what follows.

The email reprinted below was unexpected and unsolicited and was received by associate editor Bianca Phillips on Thursday. The sender, Chester Thayer of Bartlett, is a Marine veteran of Vietnam, a retired carpenter who describes himself as “unpolitical.” What Mr. Thayer has to say speaks for itself — and for the meaning and consequences of the state’s Photo-ID law — so profoundly that it requires no further explanation:

WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, my mom, Jesse Faye Thayer, is 91 years old; a resident of Shelby County for 65 years. Her home of 21 years is in Bartlett. She has paid her taxes and voted for the last seven decades-without fail.

Suddenly, at the stroke of a pen, she is no longer able to legally participate in the democratic process without a photo ID. She has been in ill health for many years, with a heart condition and crippling arthritis, but none the less, she would not be denied her "right to vote."

She has a friend, 80 years old, suffering from cancer, and undergoing chemo-therapy, who volunteered to take her to the Highway Patrol Station on Summer Ave. She didn't let me know what she was attempting to do; otherwise, I would have taken her myself. After a long hour and a half wait, she finally got her photo ID.

For a younger, healthier person, this is a mere aggravation; an inconvenient, frustrating wait; time away from their family and their job. For my mother, it was a life threatening experience. She was near collapse by the time she returned to her home. It was several days before she could fully recuperate from this ordeal.

When she was able, she called me and told me what she had done. She was very proud of herself for this accomplishment as she is of a very independent nature-to understate.

I would like to ask the legislators of the great state of Tennessee: is this fair to impose such a law on the elderly? I do not believe so. In my opinion, to treat the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and the disadvantaged, in such a manner, is a disgrace for those elected to office to represent us.

I also believe that the Photo ID law will be remembered as a dark chapter in the history of the state of Tennessee.

You have my permission to make public this letter of concern. Here's a few photos of my Mom a few days after she recovered from the photo ID ordeal.

By the way; her birthday is January 29th, 1921. At the time, Warren G. Harding was the President of the United States. According to the information I found, he was a Republican, an advocate of civil rights, and was sensitive to the plights of minorities, women, and labor. You have my permission to make public this letter of concern.

Highest regards,

Chester Thayer, Bartlett, Tenn.

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