Sad, But True: TN Senate Approves Photo ID Requirement for Voters

February 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Fair Elections, Recent Blog Posts

With unemployment in Tennessee at 9.4%, an economy that is in serious need of a boost, and people losing their homes and everything they’ve worked for, the Tennessee State Senate last night spent valuable time on a solution in search of a problem: a bill that would require voters show a photo ID before they vote (SB016).

Watch the Senate floor Debate on SB016 here.

This bill will also disenfranchise any Tennessean who does not have a picture ID or who will face barriers to obtaining one. Chas Sisk covered the vote for the Tennessean:

Senators voted 21-11 in favor of a measure sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, that would require voters to bring a passport, driver’s license or other government-issued identification card with them to the polls to vote. The bill still must be approved by the state House of Representatives before heading to the governor.

“Currently, we do not have a good measure to stop voter impersonation,” Ketron said.

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines, with one Democrat, Nashville Sen. Douglas Henry, joining the 20-member Republican caucus.

Senators tabled several amendments that Democrats said would have made it easier for the poor, senior citizens, disabled people and others who might not own photo IDs to vote. Such people may not be able to afford to travel to a Department of Safety office and purchase a state card to vote, they said.

“It is a modern-day poll tax for these people,” said Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.

To Sen. Ketron, we do have a system in place. Even you said that the State Election Commission located thousands of felons on the voter rolls. Doesn’t this mean that the system we have in place is working? And as Chas noted in his article, some of us don’t see “how the law would help prevent felons from voting, because they are not barred under Tennessee law from getting a driver’s license or other photo identification.”

To Sen. Herron, it’s a poll tax for all of us. And it’s not just the cost of the ID itself. It’s the money we lose because we have to take time off from work to spend hours in line at the DMV to get the ID. It’s the money we lost on transportation to get to the DMV. And as you mentioned on the floor yesterday, this can be especially egregious for those of us who live in one of 62 counties who do not have a DMV in their county.

Voting: Free for one, free for all. Fair for one, Fair for all.

See also:
Nashville City Paper
Murfreesboro Post
Nashville Public Radio
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Knoxville News Sentinel

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