Most Tennesseans think the state's new law requiring government-issued photo ID in order to vote is a "good idea," but many remain confused about exactly what forms of identification are acceptable, according to a poll released this week by Middle Tennessee State University's College of Mass Communication.
Eighty-two percent of the 646 adults surveyed consider the new law "a good idea that should be kept in place." Eleven percent consider the law "a bad idea that should be done away with." The remainder aren't sure.
However, while 93 percent know a current Tennessee driver's license is acceptable and 81 percent know a valid military ID will do, only 21 percent know that an expired Tennessee driver's license also will be accepted.
Only 46 percent know that "a valid employee ID issued by a major automaker to a worker at one of its Tennessee plants" doesn't qualify for voting purposes.
And just 29 percent know that a valid University of Tennessee student identification card would be unacceptable.
The Republican bill specifically excluded IDs issued by private employers, public and private colleges and city and county governments.
GOP lawmakers say the law aims to prevent voter fraud and that the latter types of ID are more susceptible to problems.
Democrats contend the law puts barriers in the way of elderly, minorities, the poor and disabled Tennesseans, who often vote Democratic.
Today is the last Saturday for voters to get free photo ID at state driver license centers before Tuesday's primary.
Chattanooga has centers at 6502 Bonny Oaks Drive and 4873 Dayton Blvd.
Cleveland's center is at 301 James Asbury Drive NW. The centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today solely to issue photo IDs.
March 12 is the last day county clerks will issue voter photo IDs at no cost.
Other MTSU poll results
Relatively few in the survey think new state teacher evaluations are boosting education quality.
Just 18 percent of respondents think controversial public teacher evaluations that went into effect last fall are raising the quality of education. Nineteen percent think it makes no difference, and 16 percent say the evaluations lower education quality.
But the biggest group -- 48 percent -- said they don't know what impact the new evaluations are having.
And only about 4 percent of those surveyed thinks the average number of students in public school classrooms should increase. Half say current average class sizes are about right and 38 percent think average classes should have fewer students. Everyone else is unsure.
Haslam this year pushed legislation that would let local school systems increase average class size, although caps on individual classes would remain in place.
Opposition from parents, educators and lawmakers prompted the governor to delay the bill until next year.
MTSU's poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 13-25. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
Another poll's take
A recent polling memo directed at legislative Republicans from StudentsFirst, the education reform advocacy group founded by former Washington, D.C., education commissioner Michelle Rhee urges lawmakers to push education reforms further.
"An education reform message will have significant resonance with the state's voters," the StudentsFirst memo states, citing a Jan. 31-Feb. 1 survey it commissioned from Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm. "There is zero support for the status quo."
It says 53 percent of voters believe schools are on the wrong track. Fifty-two percent believe schools need "major change" while 41 percent are looking for "minor change."
The memo also says voters supported the governor's classroom size plan by 54-41 percent and back vouchers by a 55-42 percent margin.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
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, ...