Tenn. Bill Would Require Photo ID From Voters

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – Voters would be required to show photo identification before they can cast ballots under a proposal passed on to the full Senate Tuesday.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro passed the State and Local Government Committee on a 6-3 vote along party lines and will be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor.

The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the same committee in the House, where it has failed the last several years.

But because the GOP controls both chambers – and every committee in both is headed by a Republican – the measure is expected to pass this year.

Present law allows voters to provide documents without photos such as valid voter registration certificates or social security cards. The proposed legislation specifies that "the identification must bear the name, address and photograph of the voter."

Ketron said he's simply seeking to "protect the purity of the ballot box," but opponents of the proposal are concerned it will disenfranchise voters.

"I feel that it's voter intimidation and some of my constituents think this is," said Democratic Sen. Thelma Harper of Nashville, who voted against the measure.

Under the proposal, a person who can't show proper identification would be able to vote by provisional ballot, and individuals in nursing homes would be exempt.

Still, Dick Williams of the advocacy group Common Cause said the bill would discourage eligible voters from voting.

Tennessee ACLU executive director Hedy Weinberg suggested local election officials share specifically with individuals what they need to vote "so we're not disenfranchising people."

Ketron told reporters after the meeting that he would be open to such an amendment.

On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear a bill by Ketron that would require Tennessee's driver's license test to be given only in English. The proposal – which has languished for years – passed the Senate last year but failed again in the House. However, just like the photo legislation, it's expected to pass this year.

Read SB0016, SB0010 at http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/

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