VOL. 126 | NO. 174 | Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Voter Education Gears Up Ahead of Photo ID Law
The Associated Press
KNOXVILLE (AP) – Tennessee’s new law to require nearly all voters to show a photo identification card at polling places beginning next year has led state officials and interest groups to plan education campaigns before the 2012 elections.
Tennessee is one of six states with Republican-controlled legislatures to pass a photo ID law this year, joining 17 states that already had the requirement.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins has already held conference calls with county election officials about implementing the law beginning Jan. 1. He said the state’s voter education campaign and exemptions for some voters will mitigate the effect of the new law.
“If we do our jobs right, we believe it will have limited impact,” Goins told The Knoxville News Sentinel.
The election coordinator will work with civic organizations such as AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans, and the League of Women Voters and use public service announcements to share information about the law. Direct mailings to voters likely to be affected also are possible he said.
Senior citizens may see the biggest impact because of a state law that allows those older than 60 to have driver’s licenses without a photo.
Shelley Courington of the AARP said the organization plans to share information through a teleconference, letters and Internet alerts to its 648,000 members in Tennessee.
Tennessee Democratic Party leaders fought the law because they worry it will suppress turnout among their voters. The party is countering by already distributing voter education information that will “explain in simple, straightforward language what steps you can take to get to vote,” Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester said.
Not all forms of government-issued photo ID will be allowed. College and county-issued ID cards won’t be accepted, but Goins said expired driver’s licenses and those from out of state will suffice.
Free ID cards are being issued at state driver’s license officers. People who are indigent will be allowed to vote if they present an affidavit.
Those who vote absentee also won’t have to show a photo ID, Goins said.
He said informing voters and election officials of the exemptions is part of his office’s education plan.
Republican supporters said the ID law was needed to combat election fraud.
Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com
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