A representative for the American Association of People with Disabilities visited the Capitol Tuesday to complain that the state’s new voter identification law is unfair to the disabled because it raises hurdles to their casting their ballots in person. “The state, counties and federal government have spent a lot of money making polling places accessible,” said Jim Dickson, vice president of organizing and civic engagement for the Washington-based organization. “Voting is an amazing experience and it is wrong — wrong — and it is mean-spirited to place a photo ID barrier between a citizen with a disability and a voting booth.”
Opponents of the state’s new law requiring voters to show a picture ID at the polls have named the disabled as one of the groups that could be adversely affected by it. Because many disabled people do not drive, they are less likely to have a photo ID, and they would find it especially difficult to go to a driver license center to get a state-issued government ID, foes of the law say.
Yet state lawmakers have not introduced any measures that would lighten the voter ID requirement for the disabled, said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, a Nashville-based group that has been campaigning for the law’s repeal. Supporters of the law say that because many other forms of ID are acceptable at the polls, the law is no more onerous than policies requiring a photo ID to cash a check or buy alcohol. They also say voters can cast their ballots absentee if they do not have an ID and cannot get one. Dickson, who is blind, said the latter argument is unfair to people like him. “I have to give up a secret ballot if I’m going to vote absentee,” he said.