Tennessee’s new photo identification law is a solution in search of a problem that voters will have to deal with unless courts rule that it is an unconstitutional infringement on access to the polls. The voter ID law was taken from boiler plate legislation drafted by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.
It is described by critics as part of an effort to solidify Republican majorities in state legislatures across the country and strengthen the GOP’s hand on the federal level. It takes effect next year.
Meanwhile, advocates for the elderly, minorities and others who may be discouraged from voting can help counter its effects with an educational and assistance campaign.
Drivers over the age of 60 who have chosen to renew their licenses online without a photograph could otherwise get a rude surprise when they try to exercise their right to vote next year. State officials say 126,262 registered voters in Tennessee have opted for non-photo driver’s licenses, including more than 26,000 in Shelby County.
Students also need to be informed that the law eliminates their college IDs as proof of identity for voting purposes.
People without photo IDs who intend to vote must be provided with them free of charge at driver’s license offices across the state.
Local election commissions that have the best interests of voters in mind must do their part to educate voters about the new law prior to Jan. 1, when it goes into effect.
Still, there is bound to be a gap in knowledge and assistance that some would-be voters will need in order to become eligible, and advocates of inclusive elections will have a role to play.