Although 4 out of 5 Tennesseans favor a controversial state law requiring voters show a government-issued photo ID to vote, according to a new poll, critics say they refuse to accept defeat.
Voters across the state will take the new voter ID law out for a spin for the first time March 6 in the Republican presidential primary, testing the bounds of whether voters who lack a photo ID can get one in time to cast their ballot.
“Everywhere I go, everybody agrees with it. Very few people do I find that disagree with it,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who sponsored the measure in the Senate when it became law last year.
The telephone poll of Tennessee adults is conducted twice a year by Middle Tennessee State University’s Office of Communication Research, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The MTSU Poll asked respondents:
Do you think asking voters in Tennessee to show a form of identification that includes their name and photograph is a good idea that should be kept in place, or a bad idea that should be done away with? Or do you have no opinion one way or the other?
According to MTSU, 82 percent of respondents favored sticking with the new law, 11 percent said the state should do away with the measure and 7 percent offered offered no opinion.
“I’m sure all 82 percent of them had a drivers’ license with a photo on it,” said Sen. Jim Kyle, the leading Democrat in the upper chamber and an opponent of the voter ID law.
MTSU found 92 percent of respondents know a driver’s license can be used on election day, but only 21 percent knew an expired driver’s license would be just as good. About 42 percent of people mistakenly thought a college ID would be accepted at the polls, although 84 percent of people knew a military ID would be accepted.
A coalition of critics called Barriers to the Ballot Box has rallied against the measure for the better part of a year, saying the results don’t change the fact that some voters — likely ones voting Democrat — will be disenfranchised when they try to cast their ballot.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU’s Tennessee chapter and a member of the coalition, says opponents are pushing lawmakers to repeal the law, although the move has little support among the Republican-led legislature. She said the coalition is still exploring whether it will challenge the law in court.
The Super Tuesday primary election is not the first in the state subject to the voter ID law. Voters in Waynesboro cast ballots in the city election earlier this month. The primary election for state and congressional races will be held in August.
Steven Hale contributed to this report.