Haslam Confident in State Plans to Implement Photo ID Law

Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration has the steps in place to make sure everyone who is qualified to vote can, despite statements from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that Tennessee could be disenfranchising voters.

Between plans to open up photo ID express lanes at local DMVs, asking county clerks to issue the identifications and reaching out to affected voters, Tennessee is on the right track, Haslam said.

“In Tennessee we want to make certain that everybody that has the legal right to vote has the opportunity to vote. And those that don’t have the legal right to vote don’t vote,” Haslam told reporters on a conference call Wednesday about his meetings with bond rating agencies in New York.

Durbin, the assistant majority leader in the Senate, said this week he is concerned that the state’s new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the ballot box could disenfranchise voters, especially the poor, elderly, ethnic minorities and those living in rural areas. He said more than 126,000 Tennessee voters have photo-less drivers licenses that will not be accepted on election day.

Durbin suggested the law could warrant an examination by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

Durbin asked Haslam in a letter last week to detail his plan for ensuring voters can obtain photo identification efficiently and free of charge before the next election. The governor’s office has not yet responded, a spokesman said.

Almost any photo ID issued by the state or federal government will be accepted at the polls, according to the governor’s office. That includes current or expired driver’s licenses from Tennessee or other states, government employee cards including university IDs for staff and faculty, current or expired military IDs, veterans’ cards and U.S. passports.