Democrats push change in TN voter ID law

Tennessee Democrats are calling on GOP lawmakers to revamp the state’s current photo voter-identification mandate to conform with five recent federal court decisions in other states, reports the Times Free Press.

Charging the 2011 legislation passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly is little more than a “Jim Crow law” intended to “suppress the vote,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said Tuesday federal court rulings in North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere send a message that “it’s time for Tennessee to get things right.”

In their Nashville news conference, Cooper and a group of state Democratic lawmakers also pointed to a 2014 U.S. General Accountability Office study of Tennessee and Kansas’ photo ID laws and their apparent impact on voting.

The study found that after its enactment, Tennessee voter turnout fell more steeply over a three-year period, especially among black and younger voters, than four other states that didn’t impose the tougher requirements.

Tennessee’s law requires state-issued photo ID such as a state Safety Department driver’s license or simple identification card, a state-issued handgun permit, a current U.S. passport and valid military ID.

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, who is black, said the Tennessee law’s “sole purpose is to prevent people of color and poor people and women and seniors and young people from going out and voting. And we’ve seen that most of that happened after the election of our president, President Obama.”

But state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro quickly pushed back, citing GOP lawmakers’ main argument when passing the voter ID law: voter fraud.

“It should not be easier to board a plane, cash a check, or buy cigarettes than to vote in Tennessee,” said Ketron, who sponsored the law, in a statement. “Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms and we must protect the integrity of our elections. The National Democratic Convention has even required a picture ID to get in and vote.”

…Tennessee’s law is deemed among the nine most stringent among states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization for states.