Democratic lawmakers are filing legislation to repeal the Republican-backed voter photo ID law and challenging statements that college student IDs were excluded because of campus fraud committed for underage drinking.
Senate Democratic Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson and House Democratic Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory said Wednesday they are sponsoring legislation to turn back the photo ID act, which takes effect Jan. 1, contending it could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Tennessee voters. “We have a duty as lawmakers to protect the ballot box, but we also have a duty to protect Tennessee citizens’ ability to vote,” Finney said. “This new requirement will put hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans in danger of losing their right to vote. It’s our job to defend that right.”
Under the law passed this year, Tennessee voters must show a photo ID in order to vote. Forms of acceptable photo IDs are driver’s licenses with a photo, a U.S. passport, federal government photo ID, U.S. military ID and gun permit card with photo. The law doesn’t apply to people who vote absentee, including those 65 or older and those who vote at a licensed nursing home.
Public housing IDs, Medicaid cards and college IDs won’t be accepted at voting precincts. Critics say Republicans want to make it difficult for the poor and college students to vote because they’re likely to support Democrats.
Tennessee has 126,000 registered voters who don’t have a driver’s license with a photo ID. It has another 47,000 who are registered to vote but don’t have a driver’s license.
Finney and Turner pointed out Wednesday that according to the Department of Safety, 675,000 Tennesseans old enough to vote don’t have a photo ID required to vote.