Tennessee: Bill requiring citizenship proof to vote fails

Tennessee: Bill requiring citizenship proof to vote fails

April 15th, 2009 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II

Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal that would require proof of citizenship to register as a Tennessee voter has likely failed for the session after a tie vote Wednesday in the House Elections Subcommittee.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, fell 3-3 along party lines. Todd said a similar measure failed three years ago in the same committee.

The proposal would require people seeking to register to vote to document their citizenship with driver's licenses, passports or birth certificates.

Current state law requires people to check a box on an application affirming under threat of perjury that they are U.S. citizens. Supporters of the proposal say there's no way for election officials to challenge that assertion.

"It's a simplistic thing that nobody wants to deal with," Todd said.

He said the legislation is necessary to restore voter confidence in the state election system after reports of voting irregularities in recent years, including ballots cast by people under the name of dead voters.

The companion bill to the failed House measure is scheduled for a Senate floor vote Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said he plans to talk with Todd about the bill before proceeding.

"I've got to evaluate where we are," said the Collierville Republican.

Democratic Sen. Thelma Harper of Nashville argued against the proposal when it was before the Senate State and Local Government Committee and said she's unsure how she will vote if the measure comes before the full Senate.

She said the legislation would hamper voter registration drives at places like supermarkets, colleges and churches.

"It effectively eliminates our ability to do registration drives because you don't have the ability to copy a person's birth certificate or their passport," she said.