Local NAACP officials say it’s getting harder for poor people and people of color to vote, and they point to Tennessee’s 2011 voter ID law as part of the problem. “This year, we determine if America is a place for everyone or a place for a few,” said City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who spoke at the NAACP’s State of the Vote 2016 meeting this month. “Some of the obvious things that should tell us how important voting is, is the effort to keep people from voting, like the new voting ID Laws,” Hakeem said. “We don’t want to give people looking to the past a free ride by not even going to the polls.” The website WalletHub says Tennessee’s black voters are among the least politically engaged in the nation. The website said its research showed Tennessee ranked 43rd among 48 states for black turnout.
And Ballotpedia ranks Tennessee’s voter ID law as among the strictest in the country. It’s among 10 states that require a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot, whether voting early or on Election Day.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law says other states have restricted voter registration or limited dates and hours for early voting. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the voter ID laws are not intended to hinder eligible voters, but to eliminate fraud.
When state lawmakers passed the photo ID law in 2011 its Senate sponsor, Republican Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, cited fraud in the 2006 special election Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis. , in 2006. The state election coordinator also said several hundred felons had voted after being removed from the rolls in 2009.