published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Tennessee needs voter ID law

You may remember a few years back when Georgia legislators enacted a law to require photo identification of voters when they cast ballots. The sensible goal was to prevent illegal aliens or other ineligible people from voting.

But lawmakers were accused of trying to disenfranchise the poor and minorities, even though protections were in place to ensure that the ID rules would not be an undue burden.

Ultimately, the ID requirement prevailed in Georgia, and the alleged voter suppression didn’t materialize.

Now, the Tennessee Senate has prudently passed a bill to require a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID when voters go to the polls in this state. The House should follow suit, and Gov. Bill Haslam should sign the bill into law.

At present, Tennesseans may vote with certain types of ID that do not include a photo.

But the need for photo ID in the state is obvious. Results of a 2006 state Senate election in Memphis were rejected because of fraudulent voting, such as voting by felons and dead people. And a state investigation found that hundreds of felons have voted despite being ineligible. That wrongly dilutes the ballots of people who are eligible to vote.

Like the Georgia law, the bill approved in Tennessee’s Senate has safeguards so that the inability to afford a photo ID will not keep a person from voting.

Tennessee lawmakers who are pushing the voter ID legislation are bizarrely being accused of “voter intimidation.” But they should ignore that irrational criticism and protect the integrity of the ballot box.

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