Tennessee House approves photo ID requirement for voting

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April 15, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tennessee: A proposal requiring voters in Tennessee to present photo identification before voting passed the House yesterday. The measure, which was sponsored by Republican Representative Debra Maggart, was approved with a vote of 57-35. This is despite a warning from Democratic Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., stating that this measure would violate the Constitutions of Tennessee and the United States. He claimed that without a provision allowing for the supply of free ID cards to voters, the bill "unduly burdens the right to vote" and is thus a version of the unconstitutional poll tax.[1]

The bill passed the Tennessee State Senate in February with a vote of 21-11. It must now have minor differences sorted out before it goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his approval. The governor stated that he is unsure of whether he will sign the bill without a constitutional remedy. He stated "Obviously, the attorney general’s opinion is very significant in that matter." “I do think that having a way to verify … that the people are the people who should be voting is important to all of us."[1]

Democrats have raised opposition to the measure, claiming that it may intimidate or disenfranchise legitimate voters. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said "We don’t want to institute a poll tax, or any type of impediment."[1]

Several Democratic measures meant to amend the bill by providing exemptions to people, such as the elderly, failed to pass the Tennessee House on Thursday. Under the current version of the proposal, people who cannot provide identification would be able to vote by provisional ballot. It also provides exemptions for those in nursing homes or group homes.

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