Illinois’ Durbin to Haslam: ‘Widespread concern' over Tennessee's photo ID voter law

Friday, September 9, 2011 at 4:47pm

High-ranking U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has expressed “widespread concern” to Gov. Bill Haslam over Tennessee’s controversial new election law that requires citizens display photo identification to vote, suggesting it could disenfranchise certain demographics.

Accordingly, Durbin has asked Haslam to “identify the steps your administration is taking” to ensure all Tennesseans can efficiently obtain free photo identification before the next election.

“Although the text of Tennessee’s new laws technically apply to all citizens, these new voting restrictions could have a disproportionate impact on the minority, young, senior, disabled, rural, homeless, and low income communities in Tennessee,” Durbin wrote to Haslam in a letter Thursday.

Durbin chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. In recent days, the Illinois senator has targeted other strict voter ID laws in various states — Kansas, Texas and South Carolina, for example — also passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures.

Tennessee’s version, passed through a bill sponsored by state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, requires voters present to the precinct registrar “identification that bears the name and photograph of the voters.”

The law, one of several Republican measures cleared during the most recent legislative session, drew widespread criticism from Tennessee Democrats and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. It goes into effect in 2012.

Press secretary David Smith directed The City Paper to the Tennessee Department of Safety when asked to comment on Durbin’s letter. The agency was closed when Smith responded.

In his letter, Durbin acknowledged the Tennessee law requires photo identification be provided free of charge, but pointed out it does not expand the hours or increase the number of locations where one can obtain photo identification. Durbin said the Tennessee state license bureau — which issues such IDs — operates only in one-third of Tennessee’s 95 counties. 

“As a result, minority, senior, young, disabled, and low income residents in these urban areas have to surmount a cumbersome bureaucratic burden in order to obtain a photo identification card,” Durbin wrote, adding that urban residents often wait up to four hours for such services.

Durbin said he is also concerned some Tennesseans may believe they have sufficient photo identification when, in fact, they don’t. He cited a recent Memphis Commercial Appeal story that reported 126,262 registered Tennessee voters have opted for non-photo driver’s licenses.  

12 Comments on this post:

By: VOLDUDE on 9/9/11 at 5:50

Durbin needs to take care of his own backyard and stay out of ours.........

By: Xemo on 9/9/11 at 5:51

I've been voting here for years and have always been asked for photo ID.
Perhaps only certain minorities shoudn't have to show photo ID. Is that the goal of Washington government? It's pretty clear that any effort to validate citizenship is met with opposition from D.C.. Why is that?
Haslam should not cave to the political pressure on this matter.

By: govskeptic on 9/9/11 at 5:52

Where does Sen. Durbin think he gets the authority to request or suggest
anything to the Governor of this State. Yes, he may be Dirty Harry's right hand
man and a lackey of the Daley's Chicago Political machine, much like our President
was or is, but was self importance. Both he and the Senior Sen. from NY
thinks their power and words are oh so great and important to the public.
Truth is both have a sound of flatulence to many of us! Durbin needs to be more
concerned with the heavy lifting ahead on all the ridiculous policies proposed !!

By: Xemo on 9/9/11 at 5:58

Clearly an attempt at intimidation by Durbin. If Haslam has any higher political aspirations he will buckle. I'm waiting to see whether he can show the same brass to D. C. as the does to TN voters when he flagrantly flaunts the ethics rules as soon as he is elected.

By: Xemo on 9/9/11 at 6:06

If the process of getting the ID to people is the problem, fix the process, don't compromise the voting results.
My wife and I are in our 70s and we have multiple picture IDs. How can any citizen or legal immigrant not have one?

By: pswindle on 9/9/11 at 7:12

Thanks Sen. Durbin, It is about time that someone stands up to the GOP. This Voter ID is nothing more that to keep some from voting. It is the same process of doing away with collective bargaining in hope of destroying the unions.

By: treehugger7 on 9/10/11 at 8:48

Well, at least someone is standing up and saying "bull---" to this ridiculous law. If no one is going to address this stupidity and disenfrachising in this state, Congress should. It's sad that our own representatives don't care about verifiable elections. That is what is needed! Quit worrying about the small s*** and look at our pitiful nonverifiable vote counting!!

By: yogiman on 9/10/11 at 12:18

Durbin is a "formal" resident of Illinois. He should get his own damn state to be a decent place to live before he puts his foot in his mouth about Tennessee.

He apparently thinks we are as dumb as the people of his home state that are keeping him in office.

He should start representing them instead of only himself.

By: pswindle on 9/10/11 at 2:33

Of course, Haslam and his buddies killed the paper trail on voting machines. They do not want fair elections.

By: cmarcus45 on 9/10/11 at 10:21

I agree with the earlier comments that indicate Durbin needs to worry about matters that affect Illinois and his job as a U.S. Senator, not state-level issues in Tennessee. A photo ID is not difficult for any legal voter to obtain and, contrary to Durbin's courtship of illegal voters, ensures that only those who should vote do ineed votes. This should be a non-issue for anyone interested in a fair election.

By: yogiman on 9/11/11 at 8:40

What law abiding citizen would oppose identifying themselves to vote? In Tennessee you must have a photo ID driver's license until you reach an "old" age limit (don't remember that age).

There is several forms of ID needed for different things in life. Why not one more to make damn sure you are eligible?

By: Redbarron06 on 9/15/11 at 7:58

Durbin needs to stay in his liberal la-la land and the hell out of TN. The law is obviously there to keep certain people from voting, people that cant legally vote. It makes voter fraud more difficult to commit when you actually have to ID yourself.