Chattanooga City Council questions voter ID statute

Chattanooga City Council questions voter ID statute

September 14th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

JoAnne Favors stands in the Times Free Press photo studio during a portrait session. Photo taken Jan. 16, 2009.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

VOTER ID RESOLUTION

A resolution from the Chattanooga City Council would ask the Tennessee General Assembly to consider two changes to a voter identification law. They are:

* Allow two years before implementation so elderly residents have time to get photo identification.

* Allow city, county or corporate identification cards as photo ID.

Source: Chattanooga

State Rep. JoAnne Favors told Chattanooga City Council members Tuesday that a voter identification law passed this year by the state is imperfect and needs changing.

The Chattanooga Democrat said there also is no proof that it was needed in the first place.

"There has not been adequate evidence of fraud to produce this legislation," she said.

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, and the council is expected to vote on a resolution making two requests of the General Assembly: Allow two years before it is implemented so the elderly can have time to acquire a photo ID; and let city, county or corporate cards pass as photo IDs.

Councilman Jack Benson brought the voter identification resolution to the council Tuesday. Under current state law, Benson said he would have a hard time being able to vote.

"I won't be able to vote," he said. "I don't have a picture on my driver's license."

Benson said Tuesday he planned to place the resolution on next week's agenda.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed the voter identification law at the end of this year's session. State Republicans said it was needed to stop voter fraud.

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, released a statement Tuesday concerning the law, saying it is "securing the ballot box."

"Legitimate votes are canceled out when fraud occurs, and it the state's responsibility to prevent voter fraud," she said in the statement.

But the State Election Coordinator Mark Goins acknowledged earlier this week that he only knew of one, maybe two, instances in which voter fraud occurred in Tennessee.

TEXTING AND TALKING

The Chattanooga City Council also voted 6-3 Tuesday to defer for two weeks an ordinance that would make texting illegal while driving. Councilmen Andraé McGary, Peter Murphy and Manny Rico all voted against the deferral.

The state already has a law on the books making texting illegal while driving, but Chattanooga officials said city judges have asked for a city ordinance so they also can hear cases.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott told council members Tuesday she had a problem with part of the city legislation because it appeared that, if someone were dialing a phone number, they could get into trouble.

"You can or cannot punch in a number?" Scott asked.

"You can," Assistant City Attorney Ken Fritz replied.

Councilman Russell Gilbert then stepped in and said he also thought the ordinance was confusing.

"It needs to be spelled out," he said.