A brief bipartisan victory in efforts to repeal Tennessee’s new voter-photo ID law will be short-lived: State House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday that the bill will likely be killed in committee and denied a House floor vote. The Democratic bill to repeal the law requiring Tennessee voters to produce a government-issued photo identification prior to voting won a surprising approval vote Wednesday in a House subcommittee when one Republican and one independent member joined Democrats in voting to advance the measure to the full committee. “We still have a full committee to go through and I suspect that will not come out of that committee,” Harwell said in her weekly news conference. Asked to elaborate, she said, “I always let the committees function … but I feel strongly that bill will not come out.”
A committee’s refusal to advance legislation to the floors of the House and Senate for final action effectively kills it for the year. The legislature’s new Republican majority approved the law last year and it went into effect Jan. 1.
Republicans said it’s designed to reduce vote fraud, but Democrats and citizens groups who have made repealing it one of their top priorities charge that it’s part of a nationwide GOP effort to suppress voting by elderly and lower-income people who don’t have photo driver’s licenses. House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner of Nashville, the sponsor of the photo ID repeal bill, said he knows the bill will ultimately have a hard time passing.