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Tennessee Voter ID programs not reaching all voters

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July 14, 2012

Tennessee

By Jennifer Springer

NASHVILLE, Tennessee: Since Tennessee's new Voter ID law went into effect at the beginning of the year, many are questioning the effectiveness of programs in place to supply identification cards to those without driver licenses, or other approved forms of ID.[1]. Acceptable forms of identification include state or federally issued photo identification, such as driver's licenses, passports or concealed handgun carry permits, in order to cast a ballot.[1] Student IDs and library cards were not included in the list of acceptable forms of identification.[1]

State run programs issuing free photo IDs to residents who cannot afford them were created in response to the concerns that residents who lack proper photo ID required to vote in any election would be disenfranchised by the new law.[1] However, recent studies have found that these programs are reaching only a small percentage of residents who don't have ID.[1][2] According to some reports, Tennessee has only issued 20,923 state IDs for voting purposes to citizens in the state as of July 9, while estimates put the number of citizens without proper identification at around ten percent of eligible voters, or around 380,000 individuals.[1][2]

Elderly voters are especially at risk for not possessing the necessary identification, as Tennessee state law only requires those over 60 years of age to get driver's licenses without a picture, violating the requirements for the new Voter ID law.[2] An estimated 126,000 registered senior voters would be affected by this situation.[2][1]

Voters needing to obtain the state's free ID provision must make their way to a Department of Motor Vehicles office and submit a number of documents for approval.[1] Tennessee is one of only a few states that has offered to issue IDs free of charge.[1]

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