Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said supervisors at driver’s license testing stations have been instructed to use “common sense discretion” in issuing free photo identification cards to Tennesseans who need them for voting, even if they are missing a document required “from a technical standpoint.”
Gibbons also said driver’s service centers in 15 counties, including Knox, will be open on the first Saturday of every month, starting Nov. 5, to exclusively handle only photo ID card issuance. Citizens appearing on other days to get a photo ID voter card will be placed in an “express category” as compared to people seeking a regular driver’s license, he said.
The commissioner, who oversees driver’s license operations, appeared with Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the state election system, at a Nashville news conference Wednesday. Also in attendance were representatives of AARP, which has been working with state officials to educate voters about requirements of the new law taking effect Jan. 1.
About 126,000 registered Tennessee voters now have a driver’s license without a photograph, which is allowed for people over age 60. Only 214 of those voters have so far obtained one of the free ID cards now being offered, according to officials.
But Hargett said efforts to educate voters on the need for a card under the new law will be continued “ad nauseam” to assure all voters are aware of the requirement.
Gibbons said “any voter who has any problem” getting a photo ID card should ask to speak to a supervisor. All supervisors have been lectured on the need to “use some common sense discretion” in providing the ID cards and to avoid situations such as met by Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old Chattanooga woman denied a card because she did not have a copy of her marriage license.
Cooper had a birth certificate, a voter registration card and other documents.
“It was fairly obvious she was who she said she was,” said Gibbons, adding that she should have been issued an ID card even though the clerk was correct in that she should have had a marriage license, too, to show her name had been changed from what was on the birth certificate.