NASHVILLE -- If you're from Southeast Tennessee and want to get a state-issued photo ID to vote next year, today could be a good day to get it done relatively quickly in Hamilton and Bradley counties.
Beginning this morning, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security will open 19 of its driver service centers across the state and issue the IDs free of charge to people who need one to vote.
Driver service centers will be open on the first Saturday of the month in 15 counties through March 2012.
The department also will convert nonphoto driver licenses into photo driver licenses for voters at no charge. But no other services, such as driver tests or reinstatements of licenses, will be available.
The two centers in Hamilton County are in Red Bank at 4873 Dayton Blvd. and at 6502 Bonny Oaks Drive. The Bradley County center is in Cleveland at 301 James Asbury Drive NW.
Centers will operate during normal business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The move comes as the state seeks to ease the transition for thousands of Tennesseans who, under a new law, must show a state or federally issued ID to cast a ballot.
Exactly how many Tennesseans will be affected is under dispute. The figures range from 126,000 to as high as 675,000. As of Oct. 30, 3,071 such IDs have been issued, state officials have said.
"We are committed to doing what we can to make these IDs accessible to voters who need them and that includes expanding our hours of service. We are altering employees' schedules in order to operate on Saturdays in some locations, at no additional expense to taxpayers," Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
To minimize the possibility of wait times during Saturday hours, groups or organizations planning to make a group visit to a driver service center should schedule an appointment by calling Linda Cone at 731-225-0924 or Wanda Adams at 615-251-5309.