The Senate approved Thursday a bill that will make college student identification cards valid for voting despite Sen. Stacey Campfield’s contention that senators were “gutting” the protections against voter fraud in current law.
The bill by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron was approved on a 21-8 vote and now goes to the House, where it faces a committee vote.
Besides legalizing college student ID for voting, the bill also prohibits use of library cards issued by the City of Memphis. The state Court of Appeals has ruled the Memphis cards are valid for voting and the state Supreme Court is considering an appeal of that decision, though it issued a temporary order last fall allowing the cards to be used in the November, 2012, election.
The eight no votes on the bill (SB125) included Campfield and four other Republicans who objected to the college ID provision and three Democrats who objected to the Memphis library card prohibition.
Ketron said the bill includes both provisions to imitate, as closely as practical, the voter ID law of Indiana, which has been upheld as valid in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Some supporters of the photo ID law have voiced concern that forbidding use of college student ID issued by a state university while allowing other forms of state-issued ID could be successfully challenged in court.
Campfield, in a floor speech, recalled that Ketron had opposed allowing college ID for voting in the original 2011 bill that lead to today’s photo ID requirement for voting to “validate that people are who they say they are.”
“Instead of raising the bar for eligibility, we are lowering it,” Campfield said. “We are lowering it to the point that it really doesn’t mean anything.”
He said college ID cards are “easy to fake” and “you can get them (fake ID cards) online for a couple of bucks.”
“What we are really doing is gutting the photo ID law,” Campfield said. “If you’re voting for it, you’re voting to remove the protections we put in place last time.”
Campfield proposed an amendment that would have stripped the college ID provision from the bill, leaving only the ban on library cards. Only 10 senators backed the proposed amendment; 20 opposed it.
The bill had been debated a week earlier on the Senate floor, but the vote was postponed until Thursday at Campfied’s urging. The Senate rejected during the previous discussion an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, to strip the library ID provision from the bill. The vote was 24-8 to kill the amendment.
On Thursday, Kyle offered an amendment that would have allowed voter registration on election day. Only five senators supported that proposal; 24 voted against it.
Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, urged Republicans to vote for the overall bill because of the library card provision. He said Democrats in Memphis had engineered creation of the library card for voting and wrongfully used taxpayer dollars to do so.
“We are here because one political party used taxpayer dollars of citizens in Memphis and my district to fund a lawsuit to pursue its own political agenda,” Kelsey said.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, a Democrat, initiated the move to create library cards with a photo on them, saying they would help assure that citizens without a driver’s license could still vote. The Court of Appeals decision said that the cards issued by Memphis were the same as a state-issued identification card since the city of Memphis is legally part of state government.
Ketron said the bill this year makes clear that the cards are not valid, effectively eliminating the possibility that they could be validated for voting if the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeals decision when it rules.