Free Photo ID to Vote Plays Hard to Get

August 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Fair Elections, Recent Blog Posts

I Tried to Vote StickerAn 18-year-old puts the empathy he learned by being raised right to good use by walking in the shoes of others who have less mobility, free time, and disposable income.

First, a little back story. Last May, despite providing no evidence of voter fraud in the state, Tennessee legislators passed, and Governor Bill Haslam signed, a bill requiring all voters to have a photo ID to vote. The new law had two very specific amendments – (1) a student photo ID cannot be used to vote and (2) if you cannot afford one, you can get a photo ID for free.

No problem, right? Wrong. Big problem(s). The hero of this tale, young Sam Wilcox*, explains:

With the help of the Internet, I did my research. I found the best bus route, looked up the documentation that I would need to identify myself, and cleared my schedule for the day. I thought I was ready.

Restricting myself to public transportation and my own two feet, I started my journey at one of the farthest reaches of Nashville’s Metro Transit Authority bus system, the Bellevue Park-N-Ride stop.

The bus from Bellevue took me to Nashville’s Metro City Central, where I transferred to another bus bound for Gallatin Road. After arriving at the Gallatin Road bus stop, I walked a mile before arriving at the front door of the Hart Lane driver service center.

Upon consultation with the attendant – who was not familiar with the new free photo ID law, even though it took effect four weeks ago – I was informed that my passport, voter registration card, birth certificate and a water bill were not enough to confirm my identity.

What more could I possibly need?! I felt a sense of defeat. My heart went out to those who will struggle to exercise their right to vote because of this new law. If you lost your necessary documents in the May floods of last year, factor in extra time and money, because it’s not that easy replacing those documents, either. It could cost more than $120.

Even though the voter photo ID is free, the indirect cost could include new documents, bus rides and lost time from work.

As for the Tennesseans who live in the 53 counties without a driver service center or public transportation, these voters will have to depend on the kindness of others to give them a ride. This process will be even more difficult for people who work, are without their own personal transportation and the elderly.

Administrative roadblocks are forcing those who are aged, in poor health and of lower socioeconomic status to take on greater hardships unnecessarily.

As we have mentioned time and again, not everyone has access to the internet. Not everyone can clear their schedule for the day. Not everyone has a car. Not everyone has access to public transportation. Not everyone can take time off from their job(s) to stand in line. Not everyone has mobility. Or the disposable income needed to get the correct documents.

According to Bill Gibbons, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, to obtain a photo ID you need

“a voter registration card, proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, 2 proofs of Tennessee residency, such as a copy of a utility bill, vehicle registration/title or bank statement,”


“any individual who does not have a birth certificate should ask for a driver service center manager, who will work with the individual to identify possible other documentation to prove citizenship.”

But not everyone has a bank account. Not everyone has access to an original copy of their birth certificate. Not everyone has a passport, which is a valid alternative to a birth certificate (we think). And forget making multiple trips to the driver service centers.

Again, with no evidence of voter fraud in the state of Tennessee (the case of “dad” people voting in Memphis was election fraud – fraud perpetrated by election officials, not voters – and those responsible were punished. The system we have in place now works!), why are we placing this kind of burden on “those who are aged, in poor health and of lower socioeconomic status?”

This bill is an affront to all civic-minded Tennesseans and it must be repealed.

*Note to Sam: Next time, take Rep. Debra Maggart and Sen. Bill Ketron with you.


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2 Responses to “Free Photo ID to Vote Plays Hard to Get”
  1. Eileen Koesy says:

    I teach some classes part-time at the Bellevue YMCA where we have a whole wing of the new bldg for senior information tables, speakers, etc. A very active part of the 50+ Program there are trips using Y vans, buses. Could this be a source for both education and possibly transportation for seniors to vote?

  2. Eileen Koesy says:

    P.S. More important, it seems to me, than more baseless ID information FROM voters is a back-up paper ballot so we can confirm results. A republican monopoly in Tennesssee has “for some reason” denied this. Whenever Republicans shoot down an idea, it’s always “costs
    too much”.

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