Reversing a previous vote, the state Senate decided Thursday that college student identification cards will remain invalid for voting in Tennessee.
The House and Senate had adopted conflicting positions on the issue posed as part of SB125. The Senate last month voted to authorize college student ID for voting, but the House then voted to strip that provision out of the bill.
The bill returned to the Senate Thursday and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, sponsor of the bill, made the motion to go along with the House version that rejects student ID for voting.
The vote to adopt the House bill was 23-7. That sends the bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk for his signature.
When the bill was originally before the Senate, Ketron supported the idea of making college ID valid. He said the Tennessee law requiring photo ID for voting is patterned after Indiana’s law, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Indiana law permits college student ID, Ketron said at the time, and to assure Tennessee’s law can withstand any court challenges, it should do the same.
But on Thursday, Ketron said an attorney general’s opinion indicated that a ban on college student ID for voting could withstand a legal challenge. Also, he said, conversations with fellow senators had convinced him that a majority now wanted to keep the ban on college ID intact.
“I think people saw the error of their ways,” said Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who tried, but failed, to amend the college ID provision out of the bill last month.
In brief debate Thursday, Sens. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, and Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, both spoke in favor of making college ID valid.
Campfield and others have contended that college student cards are easily faked and therefore not reliable. Campfield said that even non-citizen students get an ID card.
Kyle said that the voter registration process assures that an individual is qualified to vote. At the polls, the identification is presented only to “verify that you are the person who has registered to vote.” With that in mind, he said, student cards should be valid.
Overbey, who serves on the board of trustees for Maryville College, said that driver’s licenses can also be faked.
“I simply believe college ID s are properly issued… they meet the standard,” Overbey said.
Campfield said he disagreed with Kyle’s comments on voter registration, which he said can amount to “you pick up a piece of paper and mail it in.”
The bill in question also prohibits use of Memphis library cards, which carry a photo, for use in voting. The state Court of Appeals last fall ruled that the cards were valid for voting, a decision appealed to the State Supreme Court, which has not issued a ruling on the matter.