This morning, the Tennessee State Senate State and Local Government Committee met to discuss a bill that would require a voter “to present qualified photographic identification before voting” (SB0150). During the discussion, Senator Joe Haynes (D-Nashville) made an impassioned plea to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), to delay the bill for further study…
Senator Haynes: Senator Ketron, I know that what you’re doing is well-meaning, and I respect that. But this is something that bothers me greatly because there are people in the world that don’t have driver’s license, don’t have photo ID. There are people in the world who are 65 and older that have a driver’s license without a photo ID on it. There’s a class of peple who are not indigent but yet don’t have a photo ID. And to those people, your bill excludes them from voting in our state. I consider that enough of a problem that I would challenge you..and we do this a lot when we see there are legitimate questions that we have….we try and take public testimony and we try to study it. There’s not another election until next next year. I don’t see what harm would be done if we took some public testimony. And we studied this to try an see what we could do to improve it and work on it and come back next year and try to adopt a system that’s workable. I think you’ve done a good job of trying to patch this up and I respect you for it..but I’m greatly concerned about people that fall in the categories I just described…because what you are doing is either 1) you’re forcing somebody to lie that says in their affidavit of identity that they have a relgiosu objection or that they are indigent and nobody is going to go out and check if they are indiegent there not going to be any system for that – that would be so burdensome that there would be no way to work it out of an election commission office…I’m going to ask you if you would consider putting this in a study committee so we could look at this properly…would you consider that, Senator Ketron?
Senator Bill Ketron says, “Thanks, but no thanks”:
Sentor Ketron: *Big sigh* No, Senator Haynes, I won’t. You know, in 2007, the full Senate passed this and in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled – it was upheld in Marion Country v. Indiana – that it is constitutional..currently there are seven states that require photo IDs…all of those require photo ID. We have seven different opportunities – Tennessee driver’s license photo ID issued by Tennessee and other states in the U.S., photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety, a U.S. passport, employee ID issued by Tennessee…U.S. military ID. In 2013 the Real ID act goes into effect and my attempt here is to protect and purify the ballot. That is one of the only things we have in this country today is the ability to vote and that can’t be taken away from you unless you go to prison. So, um, I feel very strongly about that for any person who cheats and votes a convicted felon or a dead person and takes away the right of me or you or anyone else who votes you have been disenfranchised by that person voting…so that’s my purpose of bringing the bill.
Senator Haynes: You are taking away a certain class of people’s right to vote when you pass this legislation. Until everybody has an ID, required either by this bill or some bill or some national legislation you gonna find people that are going to be excluded from voting because they don’t have a voter [photo] ID…and I think that flies in the face of what you just said, Senator Ketron, that is that you don’t want to take away anybody’s right to vote…
Senator Haynes attempts to salvage his own franchise, and with it, our participatory democracy:
Senator Mike Faulk (R-Kingsport): I’ve heard comments between…there are large numbers of people vs. there are some people that fall into the category that Senator Haynes describes, that is, over 65, not indigent, but no photo ID. I feel like we’re speculating and guessing does anyone know, do we have any information, any statistical data on how many folks fall into that category.
Senator Haynes: Senator Faulk in response to that, if it’s one person, it’s one person too many. If it’s one person, it’s one person too many. And if you want to come over and check my driver’s license, I happen to be 65 or older – I know I probably don’t look it…you’re out of order – but I don’t have a photo ID. I don’t have a photo on my driver’s license. because I was in a hurry that day and I knew I didn’t have to have a photo and I didn’t get one and I checked that..and got it without one. So, if I go in I can’t get a photo ID. I’d have to go back and reapply for my driver’s license. So you’re going to force everyone to get a photo ID.
An exchange between Senator Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and election coordinator Mark Goins addresses the process for notification of voters of the new system. Mr. Goins said they would do everything they could to get the word out. For free – since doing it any other way would add another fiscal note. And Iâ€™m sure they will. Except when, you know, they donâ€™t.