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Tennessee’s Election Boss Pushes Back On VICE Contributor Who Claimed The State’s Voter ID Law Silenced Him

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
  • Davis Winkie claimed in a VICE News op-ed that Tennessee’s voter ID law prevented him from voting in 2016.
  • Winkie said he was unable to cast a ballot on Election Day because he didn’t have a valid Tennessee ID, despite arriving with his Georgia driver’s license and other identifying information.
  • Tennessee coordinator of elections Mark Goins told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Winkie had the ability to obtain a free photo ID for the purpose of voting from the state.
  • Winkie requested that VICE News correct key accounts of his story after he was contacted by the TheDCNF for comment.

Tennessee’s election boss said the VICE News contributor who claimed he fell victim to the state’s restrictive voter ID law in 2016 was eligible to obtain a free photo ID from the state.

Davis Winkie, a resident of Georgia who was attending college in Nashville in 2016, detailed in a story Thursday that he had registered to vote in Tennessee via the state’s online voter registration system. He was unable to cast a ballot on Election Day because he didn’t have a valid Tennessee ID, despite arriving at the polls with his voter registration card, Georgia driver’s license, school ID, his lease and birth certificate.

But Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, Mark Goins, said Winkie was eligible to receive a free photo ID from the state for the purpose of voting using the exact documents Winkie claimed the state wouldn’t accept.

“At the end of the day, he could have voted,” Goins told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “He would not have been disenfranchised if he had gone and got a free photo ID.”

“If you have proof of your residency in Tennessee, which according to him he had, he could have voted,” Goins explained. “You can go to the same folks that issue drivers license and they will issue you a free photo id for voting purposes.”

Winkie said he didn’t exercise the his option to obtain a free photo ID from the state because it “would have necessitated that I surrender my GA driver’s license. I needed to be able to drive.” (RELATED: Keith Ellison Suggests Republicans Want To Suppress Voting)

Winkie explained in his op-ed that he and his wife had vehicles registered in their parents names, and that they were advised by their insurance agents that they would “incur a significant financial burden if we tried to get Tennessee driver’s licenses.”

Goins also said it was impossible for Winkie to register to vote in 2016 via the state’s online voter registration system – the online service Winkie claimed to use in 2016 wasn’t launched until September 2017.

When informed of the discrepancy, Winkie said he “misremembered my registration experience.”

“That’s likely because I recently read a piece touting the online system. I now realize that I registered with my SSN during a campus voter registration drive,” Winkie said. “I’ll reach out to VICE regarding a correction on the registration.”

MURFREESBORO, TN - OCTOBER 29: Halloween decorations and signs supporting Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Phil Bredesen line the road before a Get-Out-The-Vote rally, October 29, 2018 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Bredesen, a former governor of Tennessee, is running in a tight race against U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to fill the seat left open by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who opted not to seek reelection. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

MURFREESBORO, TN – OCTOBER 29: Halloween decorations and signs supporting Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Phil Bredesen line the road before a Get-Out-The-Vote rally, October 29, 2018 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Bredesen, a former governor of Tennessee, is running in a tight race against U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to fill the seat left open by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who opted not to seek reelection. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Winkie also clarified why he, as a registered voter in Georgia in 2016, chose instead to try to vote in Tennessee.

“My family moved in mid 2016 from the GA address at which I’d been registered to vote. Seeing as my wife and I lived full-time, worked, and (in my case) studied in Nashville, it would have been fraudulent to register at my parents’ new address in GA,” Winkie told TheDCNF. “That’s why I registered to vote in TN — I no longer had a permanent address in GA and no longer considered myself a resident of GA.”

Winkie’s justification for attempting to vote in Tennessee was not originally included in VICE’s article. Winkie said on Twitter he’s requested a correction from VICE.

VICE News granted Winkie’s correction requests after being contacted by TheDCNF for comment:

Correction: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly said that the author had registered to vote online. After being contacted by the Daily Caller post-publication, he realized that that would have been impossible since Tennessee did not have online voter registration at the time. He registered during a campus registration drive. This piece has also been updated to clarify that his family had moved from his former Georgia address, making registration in that state impossible, and that getting a non-driver’s license in Tennessee for the purposes of voting would not have solved his problems.

Despite acknowledging he could have obtained a free photo ID for the purpose of voting from Tennessee, Winkie stood by his belief that he was silenced in 2016 by the state’s “strict voter ID law.”

“I fell through the cracks,” Winkie said. “My wife and I were just a young couple struggling to make it, and Tennessee’s strict voter ID law kept us from doing so despite us being able to prove identity, physical residence, and citizenship. I would like to believe that the law wasn’t intended to keep people from voting, so I believe it should be changed to accommodate persons capable of proving all three components.”

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