NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal to repeal Tennessee's new voter ID law has stalled in the Legislature after being killed by a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 3-6 against the measure sponsored by Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. The companion bill was to be heard in a similar committee later in the House.
The law requires a photo ID in order to vote. Supporters say it's needed to protect the ballot box from fraudulent voting.
"Our world has changed ... since 9/11", said Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, a member of the committee and sponsor of the new law. "To board a plane you have a photo ID, to pick up your child at school you have to have a photo ID. This is a tool to help."
State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said he favors the new law because it does provide a tool that wasn't there before to more thoroughly identify the person seeking to vote.
"It's kind of like when you're speeding, you need a radar gun to prove that someone's speeding," he said. "This is basically a radar gun if someone comes in now we've got their photo to compare."
However, critics contend the requirements to comply with the law are excessive and confusing, and could actually deter people from voting.
Finney said he's in favor of keeping the ballot box pure, but he believes the requirement places a burden on thousands of Tennesseans who don't have a photo ID. For instance, he said some counties don't have places to get the specific ID, meaning an individual may have to go miles out of their way to try to get one.
"We should be about helping people vote and not putting up more bearers or hurdles," Finney said.
Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, said she was pleased to see the number of people who came out Tuesday to support the bill, and her organization will continue to encourage them to vote despite the bill's failure.
"The most important thing to tell people is to never let anybody at a poll tell you that you can't vote," she said. "And that's our number one message right now to get out there. There's always a way for you to vote."
Most forms of state or federally issued identification are acceptable at the polls. About 20,000 people have received government IDs for voting since the law was approved last year, according to state election officials.
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