Requiring Photo IDs to Vote is a Solution in Search of a Problem
On Monday, 2/14, the Tennessee State Senate will vote on SB0016 sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (companion bill is HB0007 by Rep. Debra Maggart and is assigned to the General Subcommittee of the House State & Local Government Committee), a law that will require a voter “to present qualified photographic identification before voting.”
When there are still real problems to be solved in the state like creating good jobs, boosting the economy, and generating revenue, it’s a real wonder why our legislators are spending so much energy on this bill, which is just a solution in search of a problem.
First, let’s define the terms we are working with. “Voter fraud,” which rarely happens, is fraud perpetrated by a voter, i.e. impersonating someone to cast a vote or voting even though you do not meet the eligibility requirements. “Election fraud,” which happens more frequently, is systematic and systemic disenfranchisement. In other words, it’s fraud perpetrated by those working within the system.
In 2009, Senator Ketron said that he realized the need for photo IDs when he was in Memphis testifying in the Ophelia Ford “voter fraud” case. He said, “Unfortunately, we know that voter fraud exists and that there are people who try to be dishonest in an election.”
What we know, really, is that “election fraud” exists (the three people in Memphis who plead guilty to faking votes in the Ophelia Ford case – two of them cast in the names of dead people – were poll workers, not voters) and there have been one or two cases of “voter fraud” indictments (not convictions). This tells us two things. One, the system already in place to catch offenders is working and two, the deterrents already in place – a hefty fine and jail time – are also working.
Because there are too many real challenges facing the people of the state, Tennessee Citizen Action urges the state legislature to fight the photo ID bill – which is just a solution in search of a problem – without compromise and without delay.