published Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Tennessee Senate passes bill requiring photo ID to vote

NASHVILLE — The state Senate voted along largely partisan lines Monday to require that Tennessee voters show a driver's license or other government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot.

All 20 Republicans and one Democrat voted for the legislation while the other 11 Democrats present voted no. The only Democrat voting with Republicans was Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville.

The measure has yet to begin moving in the House.

Senate debate was sometimes heated, with the bill's sponsor, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, arguing it is necessary to "protect the purity of the ballot box" against fraud.

He said about 12,000 felons recently have been purged from voter rolls and that as many as 2,370 voted in 2006 and 2008 elections, despite being ineligible.

Democrats countered that the bill's provisions would prove burdensome to many of the 500,000 adult Tennesseans -- many of them poor, elderly or handicapped — who have no state driver's license.

"It is a modern-day poll tax, ladies and gentlemen, for these poor people who have to travel to another county to pay a fee in order to have an ID that will let you vote," said Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.

He noted that driver's license offices are in only about one-third of Tennessee counties.

Ketron's bill requires that voters present certain types of government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, passport or military ID to vote. Eight states, including Georgia, have similar laws, he said.

Currently, Tennessee voters can present a voter registration card or a Social Security card. Both have a voter's signature, but neither has a photo.

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, unsuccessfully sought to require the state to provide a free government photo ID for seniors over 65.

Republicans tabled Berke's amendment as well as several from Herron, including one allowing elderly voters to present Medicare cards as their ID.

Ketron said his bill has protections for the poor with a provision that allows them to sign an affidavit swearing they are indigent and cannot afford a photo ID such as a driver's license.

He said his proposal is legal under a U.S. Supreme Court decision on photo ID in Indiana. He said the Supreme Court said the "overall burden is minimal" and "justified" in light of the goal to guard against election fraud.

Democrats said the Indiana law had provisions providing free photo IDs to the poor. Ketron said Tennessee cannot afford that.

Similar legislation has passed the Senate in recent years but failed in the House. The House sponsor of the current bill, Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, said that, given Republicans' current 64-34-1 majority in the chamber, passage looks good.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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elijahlight said...

Why aren't the people calling this unconstitutional? Require someone to pay a fee (for a government ID) before they are allowed to vote.

February 15, 2011 at 1:46 a.m.
dao1980 said...

And have passed a history test illustrating knowledge about the country and state in which a ballot is cast, and can show proof of gainful employment thus verifying that they contribute personally to the society in which they are voting.

February 15, 2011 at 8:01 a.m.
dendod said...

The first comment infers the law is unconstitutional. Must not have read the article. It states the Supreme Court "that's the BIG COURT", has ruled the law is constitutional. Another whiney Democrat I'm sure.

The Democrats in Chicago always said "Vote early and Vote often".

February 15, 2011 at 8:15 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

How about a poll tax and some literacy tests? Maybe that would keep out undesirable people. Oh, wait: we tried that and it failed because it was a bunch of racist nonsense.

Maybe we could try what we're doing already instead. Hmmm.

February 15, 2011 at 9:02 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Is it not the racist stance in fact, to infer that ones color of skin or ethnic background have a direct correlation with level of intelligence, or ability to comprehend the cause and affect of past events that have lead up to current situations that are the platforms for politicians to run on in the need for votes?

February 15, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
XMarine said...

You want fingerprints also ? Then be prepared to stand in line 8+ hours just to vote.Where in the heck will they find enough fingerprint people to do Hamilton County let alone the entire state.Tennessee is beginning to look like a red state all right......RUSSIA.

February 15, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.
princehal said...

What a bunch of fascist b.s.

February 15, 2011 at 4:11 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

The story is inaccurate in that it states that voters can present a Social Security card or a voter's registration card. The last three times I have voted, at not only my regular polling place but also at the Election Commission's main building itself, my driver's license was accepted as a form of ID.

The story does not make it clear that already Driver's Licenses are accepted as a means of identifying voters.

That Driver's License, and any other government photo ID, are already used in conjunction with voter's registration records, to permit someone to vote.

How it is that someone can vote or observe voting and not recognize that Driver's Licenses are already used is beyond me. This subtle point was overlooked in the story, and creates a misleading atmosphere around this issue.

The reason why requiring Driver's Licenses or photo IDs is bad includes: age discrimination, behavioral embarrassment not related to voting (like loss of license), and immigration discrimination.

As a registered voter, a veteran, and a son of an immigrant, not only has my Driver's License been accepted by Hamilton County Election Commission officials as a form of ID, but the person taking the card from me insists on mispronouncing and mis-identifying my last name every time --every time-- they take my card.

Then they "have trouble" finding me in the voter's records.

My voter's registration and my driver's license reflect my correct and only used last name.

Meanwhile, the prejudice people at the polling place insist on abbreviating my name, and then fumble with the books or the database, and ask me if I am registered to vote.

Of course I am registered to vote.

After I explain to them to use the last name on my ID as it is printed on the card, and as it is in the Department of Safety's database, and in voter's records: then, amazingly, my name is found and I am allowed to vote.

Listen up, Bubbas: we're tired of this kind of BS. Just let people vote.

From my experience, even as a white male, this type of procedure is racist. Even when we do present our lawful ID, the staff at these barely-above grunting IQs insist upon trying to change who we are to fit their idea of who we should be.

I don't call you "Jo" if your name is "Jones." Yet, when it's time to look up our IDs for voting, that's the kind of service we get from these people every time. Every time.

How about using people who can read a Driver's License? I'm not sure, from my experience, that we have any who can pass that test on the first try.

The name is on the card. Use it as it is. Drop this nonsense requirement proposed by GOP troublemakers. It's a bunch of harassment because people with funny names, like me, often vote Democratic.

I wonder why.

February 16, 2011 at 12:14 a.m.
donande said...

how do they buy votes

February 16, 2011 at 1:17 a.m.
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