A new Tennessee law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling stations may hinge on whether it discourages voting by the elderly, according to Chas Sisk. The proposition is that, if anyone is disenfranchised from voting by the law, it could lead to a successful legal challenge. And seniors are the most likely to be disenfranchised.
The requirement is especially controversial among senior citizens, many of whom have been voting for decades in Tennessee without having to produce a picture ID. While some seniors believe the law will combat voter fraud, others say its main purpose is to suppress turnout among older voters by requiring them to revisit driver’s license stations.
“It is a 2½-hour wait just to get somebody to see you,” Mary Lou Pierce, 73, said over a taco lunch Tuesday in Bellevue. “It is ridiculous (when) you’re talking about somebody’s who’s got a walker. … That is just awful, and it is to disenfranchise.”
…Like other states, Tennessee has based its law on a 2008 Supreme Court review of Indiana’s voter ID law. In that case, the court ruled that state officials’ interest in protecting the integrity of elections was important enough to allow an ID requirement.
But that ruling also left some wiggle room for opponents to challenge ID laws again.
The original suit challenged Indiana’s law on its face, arguing that it was inherently unconstitutional. But three justices said then that they might have ruled differently if opponents could have shown that some voters could not get picture IDs.
Goins acknowledged that any disenfranchised voters could lead to legal action. But he said the campaign’s main purpose is simply to make sure Tennesseans know what they have to do to vote.
“I can’t find anybody that’s going to be disenfranchised,” he said. “But if there is somebody that’s been disenfranchised, there are enough opponents, I’m sure it’s going to be loud and vocal.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis police officer has joined the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security with the goal of improving services for Tennessee drivers.
Memphis Police Col. Lori Bullard was introduced in Memphis on Monday as the assistant commissioner of driver services, a newly-created job that includes oversight of the state’s 49 driver centers that serve about 1.5 million Tennesseans a year.
The Commercial Appeal reported that Bullard begins the job Aug. 24, making about $95,000 a year. A 25-year veteran of the police department, Bullard has a strong background in employee training.
Bill Gibbons, the commissioner of the department, said these centers are considered the face of state government for many residents, but improvement is needed.
“Many citizens are frustrated by the amount of time they have to wait,” Gibbons said.
More training, he said, “is something we realize we need in driver services.”
Deputy Commissioner Larry Godwin worked with Bullard when he served as the Memphis police director and called her an “out-of-the-box” thinker.
“Lori has a wealth of experience in leading employees in a productive and professional manner,” Gibbons said.
She has served in a variety of positions at the police department, including in the narcotics division, at the police academy, in the special operations unit and the robbery and felony assault bureaus. Last year she took over command of the Union Station precinct and its 200 officers.
“I know the average length of time many citizens wait at most driver service stations is unacceptable,” Bullard said during a news conference at the driver service center on Shelby Drive.
The department is reviewing studies on how to streamline the system, including adding more kiosks in the future, said Godwin.
Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said he’s re-examining how often Tennesseans should be required to subject themselves to the anguish and aggravation of visiting a state motor vehicle office, reports Andrea Zelinski.
Gibbons and his staff are currently engaged in a “top-to-bottom review” of drivers license examination processes and renewal centers with an eye toward transforming them into “customer-friendly” hubs that get people in and out before they noticeably age or descend irreversibly into madness.
The average wait time across the state is 55 minutes, says Gibbons, but that doesn’t even count the hours it takes to stand in lines that sometimes wrap outside the building and leave people in the sweltering heat for hours before reaching the first kiosk to take a number.
In brainstorming ideas to help shorten up the wait to about 30 minutes, Gibbons said he’s considering whether to give more time between drivers license renewals.
He said he’s looking into Arizona, for example, where drivers only need a new photo and an eye exam once every 12 years.
…Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, meanwhile, said he is looking into a Democratic proposal that died in committee last year that would have changed the five-year renewal period to every eight years.
The long lines at driver license stations come with a new law taking effect Jan. 1 that requires a photo ID to vote.. and a law saying those without a license can get a free ID at driver license stations. The Tri-State Defender recently chronicled a three-hour wait in line at Memphis and questioned whether officials are ready deal with any influx of folks needing an ID to vote.
It’s doubtful that any of the ideas Gibbons has for easing the situation — Zelinski lists several — will have any effect on things before next year’s elections.
For years, thousands of Tennesseans found guilty of various crimes have gotten away with not paying fines, court costs and litigation taxes, reports Andy Sher, with one estimate pegging the resulting revenue loss to state and local governments at $1 billion or more.
But lawmakers hope the free ride is coming to a screeching halt under legislation (HB1877) passed in May by the General Assembly (but, according to the legislative website, not officially sent to the governor until June 6).
The bill requires the state Safety Department to revoke a person’s driver license if he or she is more than 12 months past due in paying penalties. Judges can extend payment deadlines for six months in hardship cases. If necessary, delinquent drivers can pay in installments if they can’t swing the average $500 in litigation taxes, court costs and fines in one fell swoop.
The bill takes effect July 2. Because it’s not retroactive, it won’t apply to old fines.
Yvette Martinez, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said the governor will “review this bill as he does all the bills that come to his desk, but we expect that he’ll sign it.”‘ (Note: It’s pretty safe to predict the governor will sign any bill reaching his desk this year.)
House sponsor Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Hermitage, said he brought the bill because “it’s been a long-known fact that there’s a lot of money across the state owed by criminals who have been convicted and don’t pay their court costs.
(Previous post HERE.)
From the News Sentinel:
Tennessee plans to start issuing new driver’s licenses later this month, state authorities announced Tuesday.
Changes are designed to counter document fraud and will use new credentialing technology, according to an announcement from Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
New driver’s licenses and ID card features include a new banner showcasing Tennessee landmarks and icons; new background design; enlarged organ donor symbol, when authorized; multiple date of birth placements on front and back of the card; vertical format to distinguish driving privilege from identification only cards; digital portrait and signature, both stored in a permanent database, to easily verify identification; and machine-readable barcodes for law enforcement purposes.
New card production began Friday on a pilot basis in Gallatin.
This is the first redesign of state driver’s licenses since 2003.
“A top priority of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is safeguarding the identity of Tennessee citizens to prevent identity theft and document fraud,” Gibbons said in a statement. “The new cards will be the most secure our state has issued to date.”
Current Tennessee licenses and IDs will remain valid until they expire. When it’s time to renew, drivers will get new ID cards.
Driver’s license stations in the state’s four major metro areas, including Knoxville, will be among the first to turn out the new licenses later this month.