Tennessee's Department of Safety and Homeland Security commissioner praised Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles' efforts to make it easier for more than 7,000 county residents to get a photo ID to vote.
A state law, passed earlier this year, requires voters to present a photo ID when they go to the polls beginning next year. A driver's license is one of the accepted forms of photo IDs, but some drivers 60 and older have opted to remove their photos from their driver's licenses.
Across the state, about 126,000 seniors have chosen not to keep their photo, records show.
Knowles is one of 30 clerks in the state offering free photo upgrades for those drivers.
"Tennessee is the only state in the union that allows nonphoto driver's licenses," Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said Thursday at a meeting at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "That's kind of posed a problem on the front end."
Knowles reiterated that his courthouse office would be the only branch offering the service in Hamilton County. It will handle only photo upgrades for those currently holding photoless licenses, he said.
Nondrivers seeking free voter IDs still must go to the state driver service centers on Dayton Boulevard or Bonny Oaks Drive.
Gibbons also reiterated that 15 of the state's driver service centers would be open on the first Saturday of each month between now and March for those seeking voter IDs or photos on their licenses. The centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m
"We urge groups to call with those numbers ahead of time to give us some idea when they may be coming, so we can kind of schedule those so we don't have five busloads [at once]," he said.
Jack McGill, a local election officer whose wife recently removed her photo from her license, attended the meeting.
"I won't even be able to let her vote that day without her going to get her driver's license updated," he said. "That sounds ridiculous."