Beginning Oct. 17, Hamilton County's 7,092 registered voters who have a driver's license without a photo on it will be able to add one for free at the county courthouse.
County Clerk Bill Knowles signed a contract this week to begin the free upgrades later this month and continue it through March 12 as the state prepares voters for a new law requiring photo ID at the polls.
"I thought it would be a good extra service for people," Knowles said. "Some counties don't even have a driver's license testing center."
Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons has been working with county clerks, whose offices can provide license duplicates and renewals, across the state to roll out the new program. The General Assembly dedicated about $430,000 to cover free photo IDs for registered voters and photo upgrades for drivers with photoless licenses.
"We are working with 30 of our county clerk partners to also issue the free photo IDs," said Dalya Qualls, a spokeswoman for Gibbons. "We're planning regional announcements across the state."
State law allows drivers who are 60 and older to remove their photos from their licenses during renewal periods. More than 126,000 registered voters statewide have removed their photos, and Knowles said the state told him 7,092 of those are in Hamilton County.
Knowles entered a contract with the state to begin offering license duplicates and upgrades at his courthouse office in 2004.
The county clerk's office handles an average of 200 renewals or duplicates a week and provides an alternative for those who would otherwise have to go to the state's Driver Service Centers, which also handle regular photo IDs and road testing for driver's licenses, Knowles said. The county charges a $4 fee for the service.
Knowles has agreed to waive the county's $4 fee for photo IDs and is preparing his staff to handle what he predicts will be an increased number of clients.
"We'll be able to facilitate it pretty well unless the thousands come," he said.
The county clerk's office will only be able to assist licensed drivers who need to add a photo. People seeking the free photo ID who do not currently have a license can go to a Driver Service Center.
There are two state driver service centers in Hamilton County, one at 6502 Bonny Oaks Drive and the other at 530 Cherokee Blvd.