A slow day on the Hill ended with a late surprise, as a bill to repeal the state’s new voter ID law passed the House State and Local Government Subcommittee.
The measure, HB2176, brought by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, passed by a vote of 5-3, with Reps. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, and Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton, voting aye with the Democrats. Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, was absent. Even with his vote, though, Republicans would have had to call in the speaker or speaker pro tempore, as they did earlier in the day, to even up the tally.
“People have to show up and vote, and plus we didn’t have the votes, anyway,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick. “I think Rep. Williams has consistently said he wasn’t for voter ID, and I think Chairman (Bob) Ramsey has been consistent in his opposition to it, too. If we’d had [everyone here] we could have stopped it.”
Still, the Chattanooga Republican wasn’t too concerned about the bill going forward.
“I just think the majority of our members think we did the right thing last year, and I think they’ll back us up,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to take care of it in full committee, if everyone shows up.”
Naturally, Turner was more optimistic after the unexpected initial victory.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “There’s people, I think, on both sides of the aisle that are concerned about this, and I hope we fix it. We didn’t need to do it in the first place. I hope it doesn’t become a partisan thing. I just hope we fix this thing.”
The state’s coordinator of elections, Mark Goins, immediately tried to quell the stir outside the committee meeting room. He expressed concern that news of the subcommittee vote would harm the state’s “education efforts.”
“It’s still the law until it’s not the law,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone understands that they still have to have a photo ID in November, until the Legislature says otherwise. That’s what I’m concerned about right now.
“This just passed the subcommittee. For it to be repealed, it has a long way to go, and I just don’t think that’s going to happen.”