Photo ID law for Tennessee voters shouldn't be loosened

Photo ID law for Tennessee voters shouldn't be loosened

February 11th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

There was a lot of unfortunate contention when Tennessee lawmakers considered and passed a bill requiring voters to present valid photo ID at the ballot box. There were unfounded allegations, for instance, that the law was secretly intended to keep minorities or others from voting.

The true purpose of the law is to prevent someone from claiming another person's identity and voting under that person's name fraudulently. Without a photo ID requirement, that sort of fraud can be virtually impossible to detect.

Blocking fraudulent voting and safeguarding the rights of law-abiding voters is a worthwhile goal, so it is good that the bill passed.

But recently there has been an unwise suggestion that the law's requirements should be loosened.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga proposed letting employees of cities and counties across Tennessee use photo ID issued by their local governing bodies to vote. At present, the law allows only a state or federal government-issued photo ID to be used for voting purposes.

There are good reasons for that restriction. Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville noted cases in Indiana -- which also has a photo ID law for voting -- of improper ID being issued at the local government level.

Throwing open the door to ID issued by hundreds of cities and counties across Tennessee would undermine the goal of helping poll workers quickly determine that an ID is valid.

As McCormick has acknowledged, there are objections that allowing ID from so many sources increases the chance that some of those forms of identification may be fake. By contrast, allowing only a few federal and state-issued forms of ID to be used will help poll workers more effectively do their job of protecting the integrity of the ballot box.

Accordingly, Tennessee legislators should leave the law as it is.