The Tennessee State Senate State and Local Government Committee meets tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3, at 8:30 am, in Legislative Plaza, Room 12, to discuss eight Voter ID bills that will in effect place a poll tax on voting in Tennessee.
These eight bills were all introduced by Republicans – the Party of preventing the vote – in an effort to fulfill Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey’s post-election day promise to give “new life” to certain issues including “‘pro-business issues’, 2nd Amendment issues, abortion issues, and illegal immigration issues… voter ID specifically and SJR 127.”
SB0150 and SB1681 by Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), as well as SB0587 by Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and SB0191 by Dewayne Bunch (R-Cleveland) would make showing”qualified photographic identification” at the polls before voting mandatory. SB0173 and SB0886 by Senator Ketron, and SB0194 by Senator Bunch “requires citizenship status to be proven prior to registration to vote and requires certain procedures to ensure identity and citizenship status prior to voting.”
While on the surface these bills may seem like a good idea, they are really a solution in search of a problem and will actually do more to disenfranchise voters than maintain the integrity of our elections.
The Brennan Center of Justice has studied the issue of voter fraud extensively and have concluded that someone is more likely to be hit by lightning than commit voter fraud. They also analyzed the more than 250 claims of fraud in the Supreme Court’s photo ID case and found that there was “not one proven case of a fraudulent vote that the challenged law could prevent.”
In 2007, the Election Assistance Commission, the federal panel responsible for conducting election research, altered their findings so they could report that “the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.”
From October 2002 to September 2005, the Justice Department indicted only 40 voters for registration fraud or illegal voting, 21 of whom were noncitizens and during the same time period, only 95 defendants were charged with federal election-fraud-related crimes in the whole country.
Remember the U.S. Attorney General scandal? All because the justice department tried to force State AG’s into ferreting out non-existent cases of voter fraud.
And take Texasâ€™ Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott who “declared war on what he claimed was rampant vote fraud in Texas” and “set up a special vote fraud unit and got a $1.4 million grant from the feds for the work.” That was in 2006. In 2008, the Dallas Morning News reported on the results of his efforts – 26 cases, all involving Democrats, and almost all involving minorities.
Even the federal court of appeals judge who wrote the majority decision upholding an Indiana voter identification law enacted in 2005 said, “As far as anyone knows…no one in Indiana, and not many people elsewhere, are known to have been prosecuted for impersonating a registered voter.”
Between 13 and 22 million people in the United States do not have a photo id. A disproportionately large number of them are elderly and in poverty. These bills have the potential of disenfranchising thousands of people in this state alone.
Members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee:
Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro, the fightin’ 13th), Chair, Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), Vice Chair, Joe Haynes (D-Goodlettsville), Secretary, Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville), Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill), Thelma Harper (D-Nashville), Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), Ken Yager (R-Harriman)
Please call and email to tell them to just say no to these bills.
Hereâ€™s an honest questionâ€“I would guess that most people do not register to vote at a central office, at an election commission or DMV. In election years, voter registration is often done by campaign volunteers, who distribute the forms and then mail them to the election commission. Itâ€™s convenient for voters to be able to register on the spot. Does this mean that voter registration will now have to be done in only a few locations so that pictures can be made?
Thatâ€™s where Iâ€™m worried about the suppression, not so much the monetary cost. It makes it more difficult to register to vote, if there are only a few places to do so.