Letter from Gov. Bill Haslam to U.S. Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; Sept. 15, 2011:
Dear Senator Durbin:
In response to your letter dated September 8, 2011, we are taking steps to (1) inform registered voters in Tennessee of the new law requiring government-issued photo identification to vote starting in 2012, and (2) insure that registered voters have the proper forms of identification.
First, under the law, any form of photo identification issued by the state or federal government, with the exception of student identification cards issued by state colleges or universities, is acceptable. This includes current or expired Tennessee driver licenses or driver licenses from other states, state or federal-issued employee cards (including staff or faculty identification cards issued by state colleges or universities), current or expired military identification cards, veterans’ cards, U.S. passports and handgun carry permits with photos.
Any registered voter who does not have an acceptable form of government-issued photo identification may get a state-issued ID card at no charge at any of the current 48 state driver service centers that issue new licenses. To help reduce the wait times at driver service centers, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is placing citizens who need photo identification for voting purposes in an “express service” category. While there will still be some wait time at some centers, this should speed up the process for citizens needing photo IDs.
The Department of Safety and Homeland Security is also working with numerous county clerks offices, including some in counties where no driver service centers are located, to issue photo identification cards to registered voters who need them at no charge. This should increase significantly the number of locations where voters can go to obtain photo identification.
Drivers over age 60 may choose to have non-photo driver licenses in Tennessee. The Secretary of State and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security have worked together to develop the names and addresses of more than 126,000 registered voters over age 60 who have non-photo driver licenses. A direct mail piece will be sent to these registered voters in early November to inform them of the new law, educate them on the alternative forms of acceptable government-issued photo IDs, and instruct them on how to obtain a photo on their driver licenses at no charge.
This law does not apply to citizens who vote by absentee ballot. Additionally, any registered voter who shows up to vote on Election Day will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot and will then have two business days to produce a government-issued photo ID to prove their identities to local election commissions.
All of the information on the acceptable forms of government-issued photo identification and information on how to obtain a free photo ID for voting purposes is posted on the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s website at www.tn.gov/safety.
We continue to look at other ways to communicate the new law and help all voters meet the new requirement in the coming months.
Cc: Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Department of Safety and Homeland Security
Secretary of State Tre Hargett