Haslam to Durbin: TN Has New Voter ID Law Under Control

Tennessee is prepared to make sure voters without photo identification can get one before election day, Gov. Bill Haslam told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in a letter Thursday.

Haslam told Durbin the state is creating express lanes at the DMVs for ID seekers, asking county clerks to issue photo identifications and is sending direct mail pieces to people who need the new IDs.

Durbin, D-Ill., has questioned whether a new Tennessee law mandating photo IDs at the polls could suppress voter turnout among the elderly, low-income and ethnic minorities. Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which has been examining Tennessee’s photo ID law and voting laws in other states and their implications for civil rights.

“We continue to look at other ways to communicate the new law and help all voters meet the new requirement in the coming months,” Haslam said in the letter.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said seniors having problems getting to the DMV to get a driver’s license should call his office so he can get them a ride.

“I feel confident that if someone would call and let us know that they’re going to have to stand in line for three hours, we’ll make sure that they get a photo ID,” Ramsey told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday. “So if you hear about one of those cases, please call my office, talk to (Chief of Staff Lance Frizzell), and we’ll go pick them up and take them there.”

House GOP Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart, who sponsored the bill in the Legislature, also defended the new voter ID bill Thursday, saying that voters need to have confidence in the elections system.

“I think that we are doing what we can to have people feel confident about the integrity of the ballot box,” she said. “All we’re saying is you need to be who you say you are.”