2 Hamilton County commissioners want voter ID law repealed

photo Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Beck, left, and Commissioner Warren Mackey are asking the Hamilton County Commission to back a repeal of the Tennessee Voter ID law.

TO GET AN IDHamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles began offering free upgrades for those with non-photo driver's licenses on Oct. 17. Between then and Thursday, about 140 people had taken advantage of that service, he said.The state Department of Safety is opening its two Hamilton County Driver Services Centers the first Saturday of each month to provide IDs for voting purposes only.

Two Hamilton County commissioners pleaded with other members of their body Thursday to ask the state Legislature to repeal the voter ID law it passed earlier this year.

Though commissioners will not vote on the resolution until Wednesday, they discussed the matter in an agenda session Thursday.

Commissioners Greg Beck and Warren Mackey asked the others to help repeal the law.

The federal government is spending billions of dollars fighting wars in places such as Iraq to give citizens of those countries the right to vote, Beck said. Yet soldiers from Tennessee returning home might see their own grandparents turned away at the polls because they don't have the proper ID, he said.

"Do you know that it's easier for old people to vote over [in Iraq] than it is here?" he asked. "It used to be that easy for us to vote."

Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a law that requires registered voters to present a photo ID at the polls beginning in 2012. Though the law allows voters to present a driver's license, about 126,000 Tennessee drivers 60 and older have opted to remove their photos from their licenses. More than 7,000 of those are in Hamilton County, according to state Department of Safety records.

Commissioner Joe Graham said one of his elderly family members had to get a photo ID after a department store wouldn't allow her to use her charge card without it.

He said progress requires the new law.

Mackey took issue with that point.

"I don't want to confuse shopping at the mall and showing an ID with the sacred right to vote," he said.

Some things are a privilege, but voting is a right, he said.

Commissioner Tim Boyd cited statistics he said the state Legislature relied on when it passed the law. Secretary of State Tré Hargett's office identified 13,000 deceased voters still on the rolls and said 2,300 felons voted in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, Boyd said.

"That's an unacceptable statistic," he said. "I feel like the legislation is probably very justified."

Commissioners Fred Skillern and Larry Henry also indicated they supported the new state requirement.