The House and Senate are now officially at loggerheads over whether college student identification cards should be valid for voting.
The Senate earlier voted to change current law and make the student ID issued by public colleges and universities valid. But the House stripped that provision out of SB125 before approving the measure Monday night on a 69-24 vote.
What remains are provisions declaring that library cards bearing a photograph and issued by the City of Memphis are invalid for voting – though the state Court of Appeals ruled they could be used – and new ban on using photo ID issued by another state for voting. Current law allows out-of-state ID cards, even if they have expired.
The measure inspired somewhat heated debate. Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said he felt “hoodwinked and bamboozled” by the transformation of the bill and Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, said it was “another form of voter suppression.”
“This talk about voting suppression is just not true! I’m tired of hearing about it,” responded House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, contending the legislation is designed to stop voter fraud.
McCormick said “a state Senate election was stolen in the City of Memphis just a few years ago” and a Memphis NAACP official had talked on TV about people voting in multiple places in the past.
Reps. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, and Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, questioned the provision ending out-of-state ID as valid for voting having an impact on “property rights voters.” Many cities allow non-residents who own property within the jurisdiction to vote and Dean noted some of these may be from outside the state – particularly in the Chattanooga area with the Georgia border nearby.
Armstrong said that Bill Haslam, now governor, won his first election as mayor of Knoxville by about
Armstrong said that Bill Haslam, now governor, won his first election as mayor of Knoxville by about 1,500 votes and estimated that about 3,000 “property rights voters” cast ballots in that contest.
“I’m sure a lot of them lived out of state,” said Armstrong. “Under this bill, you would have changed the outcome of the election. We’re changing the way the City of Knoxville elects a mayor, the way they elect their city council.”
He said the measure is also unfair to out-of-state students at UT who are paying triple the normal tuition and will now be denied a right to vote even though they now are living in Knoxville for practical purposes.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said he does not intend to go along with the House stripping out the college ID provision. Senators also considered an amendment eliminating the college ID provision, but rejected it.
If the Senate rejects the House version, the bill could be sent to a House-Senate conference committee to try resolving the differences.