Bills seek changes to Tennessee’s voter ID law

On January 30, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris

By Tom Humphrey, KnoxNews.com
January 30, 2012

NASHVILLE — The majority leaders of the state House and Senate have filed bills that could open doors for more people to have a valid photo identification card for voting under a law that was approved in last year’s legislative session.

One bill filed Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Colliverville, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, would authorize county election commissions to issue a free photo ID.

The bill (SB3707) would apply to registered voters who sign an affidavit stating they currently have no ID that is valid under current law. It is similar to a measure filed by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. (HB2305).

Given the solid Republican majority in both chambers, the Republican measure would appear to be favored — but likely with Democratic support.

A second bill (SB3708) by the majority leaders would declare identification cards issued by city and county governments to be valid for voting if they carry a photo. Identification cards issued by local governments, typically to employees, are not valid under current law.

The House and Senate Republican Caucus chairs, meanwhile, have proposed in HB3035 that anyone over age 60 be allowed to vote absentee on request, lowering the age from 65 under current law. The move by Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville and Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro could ease voting for thousands of people over age 60 who now legally hold a driver’s license without a photograph on it.

Two other Republicans, Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman and Rep. Jim Cobb of Spring City, have filed a bill (SB3195) that lets state employees keep their ID when retiring and use it for voting.

Democrats, meanwhile, have also filed — as promised earlier — a measure (HB2176) to completely repeal the voter photo ID law enacted last year.

And Finney joined with Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, to file a bill declaring a college student ID valid for voting (HB2730). College and university ID is invalid for voting under the present law.

A bill by Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis, would make ID cards issued to people receiving public benefits valid for voting (SB3509) and another from Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Winchester, would declare a military veteran could bring papers showing he or she was honorably discharged and be allowed to vote.

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