Liberty and Justice NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

More than 20K Voter IDs Issued in Primary Election Run-Up

State officials say some 21,000 voters have picked up new photo IDs from the state’s DMV centers in the last year, leading up to elections that begin as early as this month.

Next month’s primary election is one of the first major tests of a law legislators crafted last year to require anyone casting a ballot to show state or federal government-issued photo identification to vote. Early voting began last week.

The voter ID requirements are popular among four out of five Tennesseans surveyed earlier this year. But the law has stirred accusations by Democratic that the new ID requirements are a way to block the poor or minorities from voting. The state began issuing the IDs specifically for voting purposes on July 1, 2011, according to the Department of Safety.

Officials in Memphis said earlier this month they’re willing to go to court over the voter ID law after arguing that city-issued library cards should also be accepted at the polls.

“Some judge somewhere will have to decide who’s right on the voter ID,” said Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton.

Under the new law, usable IDs include any state-issued driver’s license or identification card, even if expired; a U.S. passport, a military ID, a state-issued handgun carry permit and any other state or federally issued ID. Not accepted for voting purposes are college IDs.

The primary will narrow the field for 99 seats in the state House of Representatives and 16 state Senate posts.

In 23 of those races, the winner of next month’s primary election will likely determine who will serve the district next year because the winner is running unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.

Voters can cast their ballots early through Saturday, July 28. Aug. 2 is election day. County government races are also up for election.

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