A 95-year-old second world war veteran twice denied an absentee ballot under a restrictive Texas voting law has attracted support from prominent figures including Beto O’Rourke, a voting rights campaigner and former presidential candidate now running for Texas governor.
Kenneth Thompson, who served in the US army in Europe, told Click2Houston, a Harris county news outlet, he had voted in every election since he was 21 and even remembered paying a 50-cent poll tax in the 1950s.
“I’ve been voting many, many years and I’ve never missed a vote," él dijo, adding that he considers voting a duty.
But under a voting restriction bill known as SB1 and passed last August, Thompson could be unable to meet the state’s 31 January voter registration deadline for an absentee ballot.
According to the new law, Thompson is required to submit a social security or driver’s license number that matches state or county records. When Thompson registered to vote decades ago, sin emabargo, such requirements were not in place.
“He registered to vote in the 1940s and they didn’t require that,” said Delinda Holland, Thompson’s daughter.
Support for Thompson has poured in, including from O’Rourke, who tweeted out Thompson’s story and a call to fight against voting laws introduced by Republicans seeking to restrict voting among communities likely to vote Democratic.
“Now we need to fight for him by taking on [Governor Greg] Abbott’s voter suppression law that is making it harder for Kenneth and millions of other Texans to participate in our democracy,” O’Rourke tweeted.
As Thompson did not meet new requirements under SB1, his application for an absentee ballot was denied twice. He says he was not notified either time by county officials and had to call to confirm his status himself.
“There’s gonna be a lot of people not gonna vote,” said Thompson. “If I hadn’t have called in about mine, people wouldn’t have known.”
On behalf of her dad, ella dijo, Holland tried to call authorities including the office of the Texas secretary of state, seeking to add his license number to his registration file. She discovered there wasn’t a way to do so, which meant he would have to re-register.
“We know it’s a new law, we’re happy to correct [his registration],” said Holland. “He’s a law-abiding citizen. He doesn’t want to miss voting and yet there’s no mechanism to add that driver’s license to your record.”
Thompson said he now checked his mailbox every day, hoping his absentee ballot had arrived. If it did not, él dijo, he would vote in person.
“I can get out and move around and go to a regular polling place," él dijo, “but … lots of people just can’t.”