Tennesseans who lack proper photo identification are a few short votes away from having to bring a new form of identification with them the next time they hit up the ballot box.
A bill passed Monday in the Senate requires that in order to cast a ballot, a prospective voter must produce identification bearing his or her name, address, and photograph of the voter. According to Senate Bill 16‘s summary, a voter’s social security card, credit card bearing the applicant’s signature, or other document bearing the applicant’s signature, would no longer be adequate identification.
Acceptable forms of ID under the bill include a valid Tennessee driver license or ID card issued by a state or the federal government, a passport or a U.S. military ID.
Despite futile cries from Democrats that mandating photo identification creates additional bureaucratic barriers to voting for the poor and older voters, the majority party — with the help of one Democrat — outmuscled SB16’s detractors and sent it on its way to the House of Representatives.
Prior to the bill’s passage, opponents tried to attach six amendments to it ranging from adding a Medicaid ID to the list of six eligible identifications that would be acceptable, allow the local Election Commission office to take a snapshot of the photoless voter and offering to dole out state IDs for free. All the amendments were shot down.
“Republicans did not want our input, even when that input was to make sure that senior citizens could have the right to vote,” said Sen. Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat. Dresden Sen. Roy Herron called the bill the equivalent to “a modern-day poll tax.”
Nonsense, said Murfreesboro GOP Sen. Bill Ketron, who described the bill as nothing more than an effort to secure the integrity of the system to ensure that people who can’t legally vote don’t. Ketron noted that the bill has contingencies for the elderly, poor and those who refuse to be pictured for religious reasons to vote without a photo ID.
The lone Senate Democrat who voted for the legislation was Nashville Sen. Dougas Henry.
A nationwide advocate for seniors weighed in via a press release shortly before the Senate was called to order, offering the view that the lawmakers ought to be trying to make voting easier, not more difficult.
“AARP has concerns about any legislation that creates obstacles for eligible voters, particularly those who are older, poor and geographically isolated,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly.
The measure now awaits a hearing in the House, where it is sponsored by GOP Caucus chairwoman Debra Maggart.