Senate committee approves bill requiring voters use photo IDs

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 1:50pm

Republicans on a state Senate committee brushed aside the objections of Democrats Tuesday and adopted legislation to require voters to show photo identification.

Democrats say the requirement could keep poor people, senior citizens and other of the party’s traditional constituencies from voting. But Republicans insist it’s needed to prevent voter fraud.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote.

“Some people say this disenfranchises voters. I disagree,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, the bill’s sponsor. “When a dead person votes or when a convicted felon votes, that disenfranchises some other person who did it legally. I have always strived to protect the purity of the ballot box.”

Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, said, “I’d have to say that some of my constituents think this is voter intimidation.”

“To board an aircraft, you have to have a photo ID,” Ketron replied. “If you want to buy a mixed drink, you have to have a photo ID. Do you we think the purity of that vote is less than buying an alcoholic beverage or boarding an aircraft? I think it should take a higher standard. A picture is worth a thousand words. If that is truly you, it should be on some card, whether it be a passport or a hunting license or a student visa or something else.”

Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, said he worries that his 100-year-old mother will be barred from the polls. She doesn’t have a photo ID, he said. Ketron said his bill lets people who are 65 or older vote by absentee ballot, and anyone without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot to be considered later by election officials.

State elections coordinator Mark Goins said he has discovered more than 10,000 felons on the voter rolls.

“We were able to identify several hundred of those who had actually voted in an election. We have identified thousands of individuals who are registered not only in Tennessee but [also] in other states. There is a legitimate interest in passing this legislation. … It’s a tool that we could use to weed out fraud,” Goins said.

Common Cause lobbyist Dick Williams said his organization opposes the bill because of fears that it might discourage voting.

“Obviously none of us want persons to vote who should not vote,” Williams said. “But if at the same time your process discourages more eligible voters from voting, then that’s the reason why we oppose the bill.”

The Senate has approved the bill three straight years, but it always has failed in the House. This session, it almost certainly will pass both chambers with Republicans now in firm control of the legislature.

25 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 2/8/11 at 12:55

I'll make sure that in my next license photo I am "flipping the bird".

By: Antisocialite on 2/8/11 at 1:05

When a dead person votes or when a convicted felon votes, that disenfranchises some other person who did it legally. I have always strived to protect the purity of the ballot box.

Felons should regain their voting rights after their release. If we are prepared to let someone out of prison to rejoin society then we should be prepared to allow them to fully participate in government again, this includes voting.

By: weescot on 2/8/11 at 2:12

I don't see what the big deal is. Its not like its impossible or even hard to get a picture ID. I don't know how long they've been around but I've had one since I moved here almost 12 years ago.
I can't believe I'm going to side with Republicans on this... What is the world comming to...?

By: bfra on 2/8/11 at 2:17

Great move!

By: JDG on 2/8/11 at 2:48

I have trouble even believing that there can be objection to this. If someone votes illegaly, that is MY and every other legitimate voter's problem. If someone does not vote because they have to have a photo id, that is THEIR problem.

By: Ingleweird on 2/8/11 at 3:35

Senator Harper needs to take her obnoxiously oversized Steeplechase hats along with a healthy dose of shut-the-eff-up. Harper voted alongside the GOP to delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. Since when has she been concerned with the validity and accuracy of elections in Tennessee?

By: govskeptic on 2/9/11 at 6:09

The 2 whinning Davidson Co. Senators in this story are the
same 2 that whin about everthing that's not a Democratic
proposal. This bill has nothing to do with voter intimidation
but a heck of alot to do with Legitimate voters having their
votes cancelled by fraudulent voting. Unless you need those
fraudulent votes to win how can you oppose such a measure?
Ms. Harper's words/ideas can't get her any attention so she
resorts to the oversized 1940's hats for attention.

By: Ingleweird on 2/9/11 at 7:25

@govskeptic:
Just to clarify: Bringing ID to the polls is fine and dandy, but without implementation of the TN Voter Confidence Act, elections in Tennessee are still a farce. Unfortunately, the Republicans, who have no REAL intention of truly preventing voter fraud, have stymied and delayed this very reasonable and logical law from taking effect, and Sen. Harper inexplicably voted to delay it as well. Without RECOUNTABLE paper ballots, voter fraud prevention via ID is a smokescreen to keep most of you immigrant-hating right wingers complacent.

By: skeptic1 on 2/9/11 at 7:46

I am usually behind Common Cause, but this time they are so wrong. Some of our ancestors worked very hard to get the right to vote. Voter fraud diminishes every legal voter's right to participate in our government. If you don't care enough about your right to vote to take that extra step to get a photo id, then you don't need to be deciding any issues by voting. My grandmother would have been first in line!

I am also 100% in favor of recountable ballots and 100% against felons having their voting rights reinstated (That includes a cousin or two in west TN).

By: Ex Civil on 2/9/11 at 7:56

This is a state effort at a national ID. I am surprised out state republican/libertarians are pushing this effort. Just think of all the people who fly beneath the radar, gun seller, tax protesters and the underground economy may now find it necessary to have a photo ID or maybe they just will continue to vote republican, but wait that will create a traceable record.

By: Ex Civil on 2/9/11 at 7:56

This is a state effort at a national ID. I am surprised out state republican/libertarians are pushing this effort. Just think of all the people who fly beneath the radar, gun seller, tax protesters and the underground economy may now find it necessary to have a photo ID or maybe they just will continue to vote republican, but wait that will create a traceable record.

By: Antisocialite on 2/9/11 at 8:04

and 100% against felons having their voting rights reinstated

Do you have a good reason for that?

I feel like the 15th amendment covers this explicitly:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

servitude - a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life

Gee, servitude kinda sounds like prison doesn't it?

Sure enough, the 13th amendment says this:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Here servitude sounds exactly like prison. So please spare me any semantics trying to make the 15th amendment exclusively about former slaves.

By: gdiafante on 2/9/11 at 8:38

The 13th excludes prison from being considered slavery or involuntary servitude, therefore the 15th wouldn't apply.

I agree, felons should not have that right reinstated.

By: pswindle on 2/9/11 at 9:07

Older citizens that do not drive, would have no reason to have a photo ID. This may come back and bite the GOP.

By: Ingleweird on 2/9/11 at 9:45

@pswindle:
While I'm all for the TNGOP biting itself,
Older citizens that plan on purchasing alcohol locally or boarding an airplane departing from Nashville BNA should be in possession of a photo ID - it can be a state ID with no driver's privileges, if need be.

By: Antisocialite on 2/9/11 at 10:08

The 13th excludes prison from being considered slavery or involuntary servitude, therefore the 15th wouldn't apply.

Kindly point that clause out for me gdiafante. Where in the 43 words of the 13th Amendment does it say anything resembling that?

This is not about how we feel, this is explicit in the Constitution. If you read the text, it's obvious:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

By using the word 'except,' the author is stating a specific condition for which slavery or involuntary servitude is acceptable... not that prison isn't considered involuntary servitude.

By: Anna3 on 2/9/11 at 5:30

Last year...I stood in the lobby of the Davidson County Election Commission where a young woman aggresively pronounced that she was working for "Acorn" and she was turning in TN Voters Registration Forms for convited felons because she thought that the law barring them from voting was unfair, wrong, stupid, and probably unconstitutional. I guess the trivial issue of the fact that she nor anyone else had gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of the law was ever of any concern to her or the other Acorn members with her at the time. The clerk at the front counter was busy on the phone and was not listening to the young woman...but to say the least...the people in the front lobby area of the DCEC were totally shocked at this. I think that this bill is a great idea...I hope it passes.

By: not_guilty on 2/9/11 at 7:20

Driver's licenses carry fees for issuance and renewal. How is this Republican proposal not equivalent to a poll tax, which has been prohibited by federal consitutional amendment?

By: FCMullins on 2/10/11 at 8:47

FCMullins
I don't feel it's wrong to require ID. Anyone can get a picture ID of some sort.
If a person cannont drive then the state should provide at no charge a photo ID.

By: ccmishu on 2/10/11 at 10:15

"By: Antisocialite on 2/9/11 at 8:04

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

servitude - a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life"

Last time I checked, you had a choice to do right or wrong which will make someone end up in prison. Servitude wasn't a choice. (lacks liberty to determine...)

By: gdiafante on 2/10/11 at 1:08

CC's post says it all.

By: marymancini on 2/10/11 at 3:09

When there are still real problems to be solved in the state and the system in place to root out the few cases of voter fraud is working, why this legislation now? Requiring a photo ID to vote is a solution in search of a problem.

http://www.tnca.org/2011/02/10/requiring-photo-ids-to-vote-is-a-solution-in-search-of-a-problem/

By: yogiman on 2/10/11 at 5:16

To get a "right to carry" permit, you are issued a permit with your picture on it. Usually a copy of your driver's permit. If you are willing to have a photo ID to carry a weapon, why should you want to deny being identified with a picture to vote?

Ashamed of who you are gong to vote for?

By: yogiman on 2/10/11 at 5:20

Apparently that young Acorn nut hasn't read the constitution. Looks like they should pass that law so they can finally read it and find out what's in it.

By: yogiman on 2/10/11 at 5:25

"This" could not be debated as being a poll tax, not_guilty. It would only see it considered as a license to vote.

It's like a driver's license; you ain't got one, you don't drive.