Hamilton County election panel considers voter ID, District 3 boundaries

Hamilton County election panel considers voter ID, District 3 boundaries

October 13th, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor

Photo by Patrick Smith /Times Free Press.


* Tennessee driver's license with photo

* U.S. Passport

* Department of Safety photo ID card

* Photo ID issued by federal or state government

* Employee ID from U.S. Department of Energy

* U.S. Military photo ID

* State-issued handgun carry permit with your photo


* College-issued student ID

* Photo not issued by the federal or state government

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission


Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons will be at the Hamilton County Courthouse Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Gibbons will discuss Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles' role as one of 30 county clerk offices issuing free photo upgrades for holders of photoless driver's licenses as part of the new state law requiring all voters to present photo IDs at the polls.

The Hamilton County Election Commission is waiting on the County Commission to determine whether the March primary will be held using old or new boundaries before notifying voters of coming district changes.

At a meeting Wednesday, Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden told his board they would have to wait on the County Commission to decide whether to run the District 3 primary, set for March, on old boundaries or new ones.

Every 10 years, after each U.S. census, states require their counties to draw new district boundaries based on population shifts and minority concentrations to maintain the federal one-man-one-vote mandate. This year's redistricting plan is due to the state by Jan. 1.

After the County Commission's decision is made, the election commission will get to work changing voter registration cards and getting them out to affected voters.

"We're hoping they will make an amendment to a resolution to go along with the redistricting lines for County Commission District 3 only," Walden said.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said earlier this week he plans to introduce a measure to have the newly drawn political boundaries apply in the March special election primary. The election will fill the remainder of former District 3 Commissioner Jim Coppinger's term. Coppinger was appointed to fill former Mayor Claude Ramsey's role after Gov. Bill Haslam tapped Ramsey to be deputy governor in January.

Election Commission attorney Chris Clem indicated that the County Commission might make some more alterations to district lines in a map commissioners approved last month.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said Wednesday that his office is still resolving how to make one minor change to an area between Districts 1 and 3 in the new map.

"There may be a minor amendment based on a slight discrepancy between what the census folks drew and what is actually there," Taylor said.

Hamilton County Democratic Party President Paul Smith said during Wednesday's meeting that he's concerned the County Commission might be adjusting the lines in District 3 at the same time commissioners decide whether to apply the new lines in March.

"There is some confusion out there, and it was not brought about by this board," he told election commissioners. "The lines were not clearly defined. It's not a party issue; it's a voter issue."

Once county commissioners decide whether the old or new political lines will be in place in March, Jerry Summers, a Democratic election commissioner, said he wants the election commission to take "some proactive action to try to get the word out."

Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said her office would send a letter and new voter ID card to several hundred District 3 voters who could be affected by the new lines.

Mullis-Morgan also informed commissioners about her continued efforts to inform voters about the new photo ID requirement. A new law requiring all voters to present a photo ID at the polls goes into effect Jan. 1.

She partnered with EPB to send out more than 136,000 notices along with bills this week.

She also announced a statewide town hall to discuss the new requirements. The event is set for Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. and will include a video of State Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. In Hamilton County, the meeting will be in the election commission's early voting room, she said.

State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, attended the meeting to hear the discussion because the photo ID issue is "so critical." She has formed a group, the Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition, which plans to meet Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Chattanooga IBEW office to discuss how to make sure all voters have proper ID before next year's elections.

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