Tennesseans need photo ID to vote — which could minimize fraud or disenfranchise many

Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 10:05pm

To the many critics of Tennessee’s new law requiring photo ID for voters, this state’s Republicans respond with two words: Rhode Island.

That’s because, even though Democrats run Rhode Island, they still joined Tennessee and five other Republican-run states in adopting a photo ID law of their own this year. That puts the lie to claims the laws are a vast right-wing conspiracy to make voting difficult and suppress turnout by the poor, the elderly and other traditional Democratic constituencies, Republicans say. 

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate, stirred up this argument last week when he came to Nashville and sat down with reporters to accuse Tennessee Republicans of working in league with corporate billionaires to undermine voting rights.

“I don’t see Dick Durbin going to Rhode Island,” an obviously irked state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins told The City Paper the day after the senator’s visit. “All these Democrats are out there saying voters are going to be disenfranchised. I say, ‘Show me one.’ 

“They say Republicans are leading the charge, but then you look at Rhode Island and you see it’s not the case because there it was led by the Democrats,” Goins added. “Democrats in Rhode Island come out and say it’s common sense. This is going to be a nationwide trend.”

Joined by Congressman Jim Cooper in Nashville, Durbin jumped at the opportunity offered by one reporter’s inviting question to paint Republicans as tools of the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council and the billionaire Koch brothers, industrialist financiers of right-wing causes and the latest bugaboos of liberals. In fact, the chief sponsor of Tennessee’s law, Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, belongs to ALEC and went to its annual meeting in New Orleans this summer.

ALEC denies twisting any arms to help enact the laws. Yes, ALEC does offer a “model  bill” on photo ID on its website, but the organization hasn’t been asking state legislators to push the proposal, said its spokeswoman,  Raegan Weber. 

“ALEC supports every person’s right to vote,” she said. “We have no campaign or concerted effort or anything to prevent voter turnout.” 

Durbin contended ALEC has “played a major role” in the proliferation of the requirements since Republicans seized control of legislatures around the country in the 2010 GOP wave election.

“ALEC’s major financiers are the Koch brothers, who come to this conversation with a clear political agenda, a very conservative Republican approach, and they have bankrolled this effort,” Durbin said. “The old movie said, ‘Show me the money.’ And if you look for the money behind ALEC, you find that it’s the Koch brothers.

“And you also find the voters most likely to be effected by these laws tend to be Democratic. Add ’em up. You’ll see there’s at least a political motivation here on its face to reduce the turnout in some areas and to advantage Republican candidates.”

Republicans defend the laws as combating voter fraud. Yet pressed to name examples of it, they struggle. Goins could name only one confirmed Tennessee case of an ineligible voter casting a ballot by impersonating an eligible voter — the act that photo ID presumably is meant to stop. 

That has prompted Democrats to call photo ID a solution without a problem, and it has fueled their claims of nefarious GOP motives. But Democrats in Rhode Island defend photo ID as a way to build public confidence in the integrity of elections, regardless of whether anyone’s actually trying to vote illegally.

Rhode Island’s Democratic Secretary of State Ralph Mollis decided to push for photo ID after voters suggested it in public hearings on how to improve elections, said his spokesman, Chris Barnett.

“It’s the perception that matters,” Barnett said. “Just the perception that fraud takes place has a chilling effect on elections and on voters’ confidence in their elected officials. Voter ID addresses that issue in particular.”

Besides, Goins asked, how is anyone supposed to know how many people are voting illegally until there is photo ID to check?

“It’s like this: How do you know someone’s speeding if you don’t have a radar gun? We haven’t had a mechanism to detect it.”

“Folks say there’s been no impersonation,” he added. “My argument to them is, show me one person who’s been disenfranchised, and they can’t.”

Rhode Island’s law is more forgiving than Tennessee’s. First, it allows voters without photo ID to cast provisional ballots. There is no requirement that they later obtain the ID. Election officials will compare signatures on the ballot and registration card to decide whether to count the vote. In Tennessee, voters also can cast provisional ballots, but then they have to show government-issued photo ID within 48 hours or their vote is tossed.

Also, Rhode Island’s law doesn’t take effect until the 2014 elections, giving voters more time to prepare. Tennessee’s requirement goes into effect for next year’s elections, and Democrats worry many thousands of voters will be disenfranchised.

No one knows how many eligible voters in Tennessee don’t have ID. But the Tennessee Department of Safety counts at least 126,000 drivers over age 60 who have chosen to carry non-photo licenses and are registered to vote. 

Voters can use expired driver’s licenses with pictures and expired military ID as well as handgun carry permits — but not student photo ID from universities because  lawmakers said it’s too easy to make phony ones. 

The state is offering free photo ID at its driver service centers if residents certify they’re going to vote. The state intends to notify the 126,000 drivers by mail that they are entitled to the free ID. But would-be voters might have to wait hours in line to get one.

The safety department estimates the average wait time across the state is 55 minutes. But that’s after reaching the first kiosk to take a number. Lines to that kiosk sometimes snake outside the building and around the block.

One day this summer, 40 people hoping to snag photo ID stood for two hours in 90-plus degree heat without water, shelter or chairs outside a driver’s license center in a predominantly black neighborhood of Memphis, according to the Tri-State Defender, the African-American newspaper in that city. Once inside the building, the citizens waited two more hours for their ID.

In a 6-3 ruling in 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID law. The court rejected arguments that the law imposed unwarranted burdens on poor, elderly and minority voters without photo ID. Democrats contend the court might take another look at the laws if provided with more evidence of the difficulties they pose for voters.

“If they explore the real cost of people to comply with state laws, it raises some serious constitutional questions,” Durbin said.

“You shouldn’t have to go through all this red tape to vote,” agreed Cooper, who said he had to take his 92-year-old mother to a driver’s license center for a photo ID because she hasn’t driven in years. “It’s a minefield for the uninitiated.”

Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents Memphis, has joined other Democrats in asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into whether photo ID laws violate the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that have a greater impact on minority voters than on others.

State officials dismissed all the concern as Democratic hand-wringing. State Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said he’s setting up “express lanes” for citizens to obtain the free ID. Long lines don’t violate the Voting Rights Act anyway, he said, because the waits are no shorter in white neighborhoods. It’s equal opportunity misery, he said.

Goins estimates state and local election officials will make a thousand speeches to civic groups around the state to try to educate the public about the law’s requirements.

“As far as getting the word out,” he said, “I feel pretty comfortable.”   

39 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 9/18/11 at 10:13

We need a paper trail in order to truly count the votes in TN. The voter ID is just another way to keep people from voting.

By: Donna Locke on 9/18/11 at 10:37

Actually, photo ID to vote and proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote have been in bills introduced in Tennessee every year for as many or almost as many years as I've been moved back to Tennessee (9 years), and in Georgia (where we had a strong push on this) for longer than that -- Georgia passed this before Tennessee did.

The immigration-enforcement movement has pushed these bills for many years. This is the origin of such bills and certain other bills. Lawyers in the immigration-enforcement movement have written a number of bills attributed to ALEC but which predate ALEC involvement. ALEC took up some of this stuff later.

Such voter laws target several kinds of fraud and unintentional illegal voting. If you do some research, you'll find a number of states have reported unofficial or official counts of voting by noncitizens -- quite a number in a couple of states, such as Colorado.

Some or many of the voting noncitizens -- and remember people can be here legally yet not be U.S. citizens, thus not legally permitted to vote except in some local elections in some immigrant-heavy U.S. towns that allow even illegal aliens to vote in school board elections, for example -- did so in ignorance, so their voting can't really be counted as fraud, though illegal.

One thing to note is that such state laws apply only to state and local elections, not to federal elections, which have no such proof-of-eligibility requirements.

And finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning once again that before Hilda Solis was our Obama-appointed U.S. labor secretary, she told a California meeting of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project that they were all Americans whether they were legalized or not.

What could go wrong?

"In a world of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 6:46

If person is legally eligible to vote in any election even though they aren't a US citizen, why even bother to become a citizen? Especially those who love their homeland.

That is to say a group can be brought into the nation "legally" to vote, paid off, and then sent back home.

Simply being here legally should not give a person the legal right to vote. What about vacationers? Can they come here and vote then go back to their homeland and vote there also?

By: govskeptic on 9/19/11 at 6:46

As the Keith Obermann of our local media, does the author not think we've heard
and read about all there is to know about this and similar laws. Not only does
a majority of the Legislature approve of it, so does a vast majority of the citizens
of this state! Let's not forget the importance of our legitimate right for the "qualified
citizens" to vote. Many great men and women lye in veteran graves that have
fought and died for that cause. Corruption of the system is absolutely wrong!

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 6:54

I note where Mr. Cooper said he had to take his 90 mother to a driver's center even though she hasn't driven in years.

Well, she doesn't have to take a driver's test does she? And I'm sure she received special treatment being a legislators mother. So what's the gripe?

If a special ID would be required to vote, why wouldn't it be more practical to put a photo ID camera in the voters' registration office to simplify the matter. Practical, cheap and fast.

By: Moonglow1 on 9/19/11 at 6:55

ALEC provides legislative templates for legislators to adopt. In addition to voter IDs, ALEC is pushing union busting, tort reform, charter schools, deregulation, creationism, anti science and, eliminating social security.

ALEC is absolutely financed by the Koch's as is the Tea Party. Made to appear "grass roots" the tea party and its agenda is a Koch agenda. The Koch's control energy and hedge funds. Deregulation and climate change hurts their bottom line. They are so greedy they also prefer taxing the middle class and the poor while preserving the Grover Norquist mantra of no taxes for billionaires.

Haslam has followed the ALEC playbook 100 percent of the time: teachers union busting, tort reform, charter schools, and anti voter I'd laws. What people do not see is the concerted effort to harm the middle class and the poor by restricting their right to vote and restricting them in other ways.

Goins named ONE CASE of voter fraud. Come on people wake up. If Rick Perry has his way, the public will not be voting for senators either. They will be appointed.

Regardless, it is about time TN gets scrutinized in the national media as Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida. When the light shines, the roches scatter.

I hope Haslam is very proud of restricting over 100,000 old people, poor people, and black people's right to vote. He knows this group generally votes for democrats. That is what this voter I'd law is all about.

By: girliegirl on 9/19/11 at 6:59

So...look at it in another light: Suppose that YOU go to vote, hand them your Voter I.D. card (no photo on it, ya know) and they look in their book, and tadah.....you've (or someone claiming to be YOU) has already voted. Are you telling me YOU'RE not going to be "disenfranchised"?????? LOL

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 7:04

Considering the circumstances and matters of today, wouldn't it be more practical for everyone to register to vote for every election.

Perhaps we should make sure no more dead folks walked into that voting booth.

By: Moonglow1 on 9/19/11 at 7:11

Moonglow1: yogi, according to Goins, no "dead" folks have voted.

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 7:19


I agree 'we the people' should not be voting for our senators. Our founders knew what they were doing when they established the legislature. The Senate was given two members of each state who were appointed by each State's legislature. If the senator didn't vote according to the State's "order", they could be brought home and re-appointed. And they didn't have to constantly run for re-election.

Well..., them ole boys in the Senate didn't like that. They couldn't make any money being "bought out" so they pushed for the 17th Amendment giving them the "right" to be elected "by the people". of the state they were representing.

Now, what is the basic difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives... except in technicalities? They are all running for re-election constantly.

The 17th Amendment be repealed to its origin.

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 7:26

Do you take Goins for their word, Moonglow1? Or was you there also?

Why did I read (after the elections) where some states made post election counts and found more votes on their records than registered voters? And did some of those voters (whose names were in the cemetery) walk in to vote?

There is more voter fraud going on in America today than ever before. It needs to be stopped for the future of our nation.

That is, unless you're an official politician.

By: Nitzche on 9/19/11 at 7:33

"the drivers license is just another way to keep people from driving"....you cannot be that stupid?

By: macjedi on 9/19/11 at 8:28

Still not giving the GOP a pass on this one. By executing this ID check at the polls and not in advance as the credentials are obtained, they will be able take full advantage of paranoia and ignorance in the populations they most want to suppress. There is a need for validation, but there must be a better way that does not decidedly protect the power of those who have lied to the middle class and led it to destruction.

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 8:37

With the advancement of computers of today, to assure a legitimate vote, why not take a thumb print when you go int to vote? If you are registered at that booth, it would give an instant ID check.

By: TimSkow on 9/19/11 at 9:31

Tim Skow

Too bad that Mr. Wood didn't include the notorious "election" of State Senator Ophelia Ford in this article. If this legislation had been in place, I wonder how many of those dead people in Memphis COULD have "voted"?.... and if the FBI would have needed to be called in?

By: girliegirl on 9/19/11 at 10:10

Geesh, Tim....I was having a momentary flashback of a zombie movie for a second there!

By: skeptic1 on 9/19/11 at 1:04

That's too too bad about all those 100,000 people waiting in line to get a free photo ID. Now you 'll know how inconvenienced I felt a few years back...waiting in line for hours while the driver license centers were bogged down by thousands of illegals getting Tennessee drivers licenses...no ID , no English required. Yes, I'm still angry!

By: yogiman on 9/19/11 at 3:57

You're only angry? I'm madder than hell. This group we call our legislators are nothing more than whore-mongers.

They're selling us out from the bottom to the top of the levels..

By: joe41 on 9/19/11 at 6:37

That is why I paid two dollars fifty cents more for a photo drivers license. Is that considered a poll tax because I don't need it for anything else.

By: Gary Lampman on 9/19/11 at 8:43

Yes its true Pugs want to disenfrancise the poor, Middle Class,Seniors ,Minorities and immigrants that legaly reside in the United States/ Republicans fear that their Money cannot buy elections while the GOP tears apart the very Fabric of Society. Fraud is only an excuse as the flow of money to commit fraud is soley at the discreation of the billionaires and millionaires to burn money for the GOP. Democrats have little semblence of affording such . No , the GOP wants to clear the field and eliminate all opposition!

This I tell you is the Goal of the Party. Simply bring slavery to the poor and middle class and return the country to a century of poverty ,Death and Despair. The FRAUD"S are the GOP and the voter ID Laws are JIM CROW, or Just another POLL TAX! Its my hope that the DOJ Shall put a halt to these underhanded tactics. I know one thing; I will Challange this new Law with a class action Law suite!!!!! So should everyone!!!

By: tv8527 on 9/19/11 at 9:51

Mr lampamn Or shouldn't that be Lampoon...

You & Democrats like you are what has led to the downfall of our great nation.You honestly think that republicans are the ones that enslaved generations of poor whites & minorities with programs like welfare & food stamps? not to mention the race baiters like Al sharpton & Jessie Jackson & what they bring to the table for the black community.just sit down & listen to what Herman Cain has to say for a few minutes or even better take a look @ where he came from.I'm not saying the republicans are the answer ( I'm an independent ) but their message is a whole lot better than what's coming out of Washington now.

By: tv8527 on 9/19/11 at 9:51

Mr lampamn Or shouldn't that be Lampoon...

You & Democrats like you are what has led to the downfall of our great nation.You honestly think that republicans are the ones that enslaved generations of poor whites & minorities with programs like welfare & food stamps? not to mention the race baiters like Al sharpton & Jessie Jackson & what they bring to the table for the black community.just sit down & listen to what Herman Cain has to say for a few minutes or even better take a look @ where he came from.I'm not saying the republicans are the answer ( I'm an independent ) but their message is a whole lot better than what's coming out of Washington now.

By: Redbarron06 on 9/20/11 at 6:08


You are an idiot. First of all nobody wants to isolate immagrants, what we do want to get rid of is those that are here illegally (that makes them criminals) sucking up all of the benifits (and yes in comes cases even voting) without contributing a damn thing. They are called parpsites in nature. Disenfranchise the poor, middle class? Think again you have no clue at all. Nobody wants to dinenfranchise anybody what we do want is to be removed of the burdon of taking care of those that dont care enough to take care of themselves. In addition 90% of the TEA party is made of up middle class.

You want to talk about slaverly well here you go brother. The real slaves here are the ones that are out working, making a living a paying taxes because the fruits of our labor are being stolen from us in the name of "fairness" in order to finance those that have not worked a day in their life, broken our laws, and are doing more to hold us back as a nation rather than advance us. How much is "our fair share" when 48% of the population of this nation pays no tax or gets back more than they paid in.

By: treehugger7 on 9/20/11 at 6:28

It's easy to see you're a republican. Why can they not spell or proof their posts?

By: Redbarron06 on 9/20/11 at 6:44

Its easy to see your are a liberal progressive, you resort to personal attacks and side traking from the real issue when your argument and position has no validity.

And by the way I am not a republican, I am a constitutinalist, so your assumptions and political views, are both wrong.

By: Nitzche on 9/20/11 at 8:00

It;s ok....Barry will take of this next year..he will ask Warren Buffet what to do

By: pswindle on 9/20/11 at 8:27

This anger of the TN GOP that was expressed during the laws that the House and Senate passed this past session can not survive. You can't take away the rights of people and expect the country to be free and growing.

By: yogiman on 9/20/11 at 8:30

Common sense should tell anyone only qualified American citizens should be in a voting booth for an election. That is unless you want a rigged election. Then you can bring in every illegal voter you can get your hands on. Especially those that'll take only a couple of bucks. And hell, you won't even have to pay the dead ones anything, just get their name on the list.

By: yogiman on 9/20/11 at 8:35

Anyone who resents being identified at the election booth con have only one of two reasons: They are ashamed of their looks, or they are at that booth illegally.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; and the voting assistant doesn't know how you are gong to vote (unless you tell them) so you are going to look beautiful to them.

Git the damn picture took!

By: yogiman on 9/20/11 at 8:36

S/H/B can, not con. Hope you aren't trying to con anyone.

By: Redbarron06 on 9/20/11 at 8:53

Pswindle, what rights are being taken away?

By: cityjvtao on 9/20/11 at 10:33

The really sad part about this whole issue is that it’s just part of a not so hidden agenda sponsored by self serving capitalist extraordinaire – the Koch Brothers. Their goal is to privatize government and drive down wages for low and middle income workers. Their chosen vehicle is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The same ALEC which provided the model language for the voter ID act passed in Tennessee. Senator Bill Ketron is an active member of ALEC and was sponsor of the voter ID act. ALEC was also behind the anti-teacher laws passed least session here in Tennessee and many anti-public employee bills across the country were disseminated as “model legislation” by ALEC. The largest stakeholders bankrolling TEA PARTYISTs are the billionaire Koch brothers: David and Charles Koch.

The ALEC uses all available resource to turn average Americans against one another. So if you’re a billionaire with the same interest as the Koch brothers you should continue to vote for republicans. The voter ID act was just a start. As long we continue to fight each other, we ignore the real issues. You people had better wake up! The ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and the far-right republicans who support their agenda will destroy the middle class of this country.

By: DREIFMA on 9/20/11 at 10:51

WE need to have a state sanctioned picture ID to vote. No more illegals, corpses or casting multiple votes. If you cant take the time to get a proper ID, how do you have time to vote, cash checks, use credit cards etc???

By: Bellecat on 9/20/11 at 12:44

(Republican) Elections Coordinator Goins could name only one confirmed Tennessee case of an ineligible voter casting a ballot by impersonating an eligible voter — the act that photo ID presumably is meant to stop.

Goins also says, "All these Democrats are out there saying voters are going to be disenfranchised. I say, ‘Show me one.’
Tennessee Department of Safety counts at least 126,000 drivers over age 60 who have chosen to carry non-photo licenses and are registered to vote.
I am sure that many (meaning more than one) of these people will not have photo ID when election comes around.

One confirmed case of ineligible voting versus 126,000 or more people possibly not being allowed to vote . Hmm.

In my lifetime I have worked in several elections, and I think this is absolutely nothing but a republican scheme to change election results. People should be more worried about having a paper trail when they vote.

For those of you who mentioned ALEC, you are exactly right. Read more and learn:

By: yogiman on 9/20/11 at 4:07


I had a mutual acquaintance tell me one of my "neighbors" voted in three different locations in every election.

Knowing that man, I don't doubt it. Fortunately he's dead now... unless he can vote from his grave.

By: Gary Lampman on 9/20/11 at 8:48

The same example of republican crap and trash talk. When you hide behind fake names and cutize none Identififiable Names .Shows the cowardice of their conviction. I indepenantly trash both parties and altough you believe your right and follow the Toilet Paper Party . Those middle claas nimrods who think that their Neo Nazi,Terroist, Con Job is proper. They are wrong !!! Your actions are no differant than terrorism and your middle class Jackels whom believe that they and Millionaires have anything in Common . They are fololish and niave!
Regardless, these are acts of the untreated mentally ill to Scare the elderly with total removal of Social Security, and Medicare. This AMORAL behavior lacks any integrity and has no business of considering being a part of Humanity. Bitich about immigration but your Business friends knowningly support the hiring of illegals. Ironic!
It will disenfrancise democrats, Republicans amd independants. You know unintended Consequences.... Did you know the dead is Dieing to Vote! Fraud as you yahoos put it is a actual Hoax and is baseless. Fascist will find themselves no further ahead when the millionaiares and billionaires have sole power . Hardly a Idiot as some would suggest, as you cannot see past your nose. Where this goes! If you want a Police State then see how will you have used based on jealiousy,envy,Fear and most importantly Hatred and Bigotry! I make 20,000 dollars a year and i almost get teary eyed thinking how hard it is for corporations to get all their Taxes Back and get special tax loopholes which shows them pay fewer taxes than hard working Middle Class Americans. Go Figure?
Your Partnership with Republicans will end in poverty. Your sacred Cows are the DOD as you love to kill soliders and create wars for corporate America's expansion and exploitation. Corporations being subsidized to go to China works against your best interests. Think about this: Every Dollar we send to China and every Dollar we Borrow from China will be Our greatest obstacle as they grow the largest Army in the world for sponsoring Free, Not Fair Trade. There is a price to be paid for these Trade Daels who only serve the wealthy. Keep it up and you will experice a Hell that is well deserved for your patronage.

By: Gary Lampman on 9/20/11 at 9:01

Last note today. If you pay attention to Fox or Linbaugh ........... It is not really News ! Matter of Fact they are twisted liers like yourselves. I heard getting a good education always gets a better outlook on life. Simply put ;Going Back to The Past is Not an Option.
Its History and no TP Party Member is going to change it.

The original Tea Party was Honorable and the Toilet Party does not share that distinction.

By: yogiman on 9/20/11 at 10:31


I good education is a great thing to have, but you will get your best education in life from experience. In school you will learn a little about a variety of subjects.

You will learn more from your experiences in life than you will in a classroom.

There has been political parties in this nation since it began. They all think their party is the best for the nation. So... which one is best, yours, or mine? As the old saying goes: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; which translates: The incumbent party is best for the nation.

And considering all the facts, why should there be different political parties in our nation? Isn't the government simply 'for the people'? Shouldn't it be simply 'by the people'?

By: tennesseeshadow on 9/28/11 at 8:11

Mark Goins shouldn't point to the Rhode Island law as it's not the same law. While it was passed by a Democratic legislature, it calls for photos to be on voter registration cards. The new Tennessee law doesn't allow for a county issued card to be valid for voting. That could solve our whole problem, but it would negate the actual reason the law was passed here to begin with, and that is to disenfranchise a small percentage of Democratic voters. The fewer people who vote, the better the odds for the GOP.