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.
The House and Senate may be on a collision course over whether college student identification cards should be used in voting.
The Senate approved a bill last week to authorize the use of student ID cards issued by state colleges and universities. But the House Local Government committee rejected the provision Tuesday by adopting an amendment deleting it from HB229, companion bill to the Senate-passed measure.
In the House version, that leaves only provisions – also in the Senate bill – that prohibit the use for voting purposes of Memphis library cards and out-of-state photo identification.
The House committee deleted the college ID provision at the urging of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, on a straight party-line voice vote. All Democrats on the panel had themselves recorded as voting no, leaving all Republicans voting yes. The bill itself was then approved on the same basis.
Discussion in the committee followed the same lines as earlier in the Senate, where an attempt by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, to delete the college student ID section was defeated. Durham said the college student ID can be “made up” and would put as risk the integrity of the voting system.
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, challenged Durham to provide a single case of a college student ID being used to cast a vote improperly during “the 100-plus years” that college ID was valid for voting prior to enactment of the current law in 2001. Durham did not do so.
The Wednesday vote could put the bill on the House floor by next week. The House and Senate must agree on all details of a bill before it can achieve final passage. If the two chambers differ, a conference committee can be appointed to try and reach an agreement.
Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, sponsor of the bill in the House, said she told the Senate sponsor, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, that House GOP colleagues did not like the college ID provision. She said he was “OK” with amending out the provision for now in the House.
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.
A Senate vote on legislation that makes college student identification cards valid for voting was halted Thursday after Sen. Stacey Campfield raised objections, saying the cards can be easily faked and are issued to people who are not citizens of the United States.
“They’re easy to forge,” said Campfield in Senate floor debate. “Possibly, in my younger days I might have known a person or two myself who had a falsified college ID.”
Even a valid college ID, Campfield said, opens a door for fraudulent voting since foreign students can get them.
“You don’t even have to be a resident of this country to be get a college ID,” said Campfield, a Knoxville Republican whose district includes part of the University of Tennessee campus.
A vote on the bill (SB125) was postponed until next Thursday by the sponsor, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, after Campfield’s critical questioning of the measure, which makes several revisions to the state’s law requiring a photo ID issued by the state or federal government for voting.
By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law deprives people of the right to vote or if it’s a necessary safeguard to prevent election fraud. And in a related issue, the court must determine whether a city-issued library card with a photo can be used as identification to vote.
The court heard arguments from the city of Memphis and two residents who are challenging the law. The city and the individual plaintiffs sued the state last year after election officials refused to accept a city-issued library card with a photo as voter identification.
The state attorney general’s office argued that that the library card is issued by the city while the state’s voter ID law passed in 2011 requires either a state-issued photo ID, federal identification or an ID issued from another state. Janet M. Kleinfelter, a deputy attorney general, also said the law was not so onerous that it would deprive people of the right to vote.
But attorneys representing the city said the votes of 650 people have not been counted in the last two elections because they lacked the proper identification.
Nearly four out of five provisional ballots cast in Tennessee in November were tossed out, according to statewide data. The Tennessean says this indicates that measures meant to ensure all legitimate votes were included resulted in only a few more being counted. Only 1,623, or 23 percent, of the 7,097 paper provisional ballots cast by people who experienced trouble at the polls during the Nov. 6 general election were ruled legitimate by election officials, figures compiled by state election officials show.
The numbers suggest that at least some voters were disenfranchised by steps Republicans took before the 2012 elections, opponents say.
“People ought not to have to fight to vote in a democratic society,” said George Barrett, a Nashville civil rights attorney who is challenging the state’s photo identification law.
Republicans pushed the law through the legislature in 2011 as part of a nationwide attempt to ensure voter integrity, but Barrett and others have called it an attempt to deter voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Election officials say the figures also show that only two-tenths of 1 percent of the 2.4 million Tennesseans who cast ballots in November actually ran into problems when they went to vote, which they take as an indication that the voter ID law worked how it was supposed to.
“I’d like to get to the point where it’s even lower,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, “but I’ll take this number when you look at the full scale of things.”
Beginning this spring, Tennesseans who apply for or renew driver’s licenses also are going to have their identities checked, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Customers at driver service centers or county clerks’ offices will leave with paper “interim” licenses. Meanwhile, the state will take a week to run their pictures through photo-recognition technology and compare them against 12 million images in a database.
“It is compared to many other faces to make sure you are who you say you are,” said Lori Bullard, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “It has a measure of security.”
Bullard said the new process and extra security checks are meant to clamp down on fraud and identity theft. As another layer of security, drivers will receive their laminated plastic permanent driver’s licenses by mail instead of at the counter of a driver service center. That helps verify where the applicant lives, Bullard explained.
The new process, called “central issuance,” is being piloted at the Hamilton County Clerk’s Office, which has been authorized to replace and renew driver’s licenses since 2004. Equipment for the process was installed Thursday.
….The change is part of a five-year effort to restructure the license application process since Congress passed the Real ID Act — a 2005 law requiring stricter, uniform requirements for issuing driver’s licenses across the nation.
All states were required to be compliance with the law by Jan. 15. Tennessee had already bought equipment to implement Real ID and had begun conducting background checks for all clerks involved in issuing licenses.
But in December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security once again extended the deadline — though it has not released a new schedule. Only 13 states, including Tennessee and Georgia, have met the standards of the law, according to The Associated Press, while others have balked at the costs to come into compliance.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Poll watchers in Memphis and Nashville reported many voting problems on Tuesday, but few had to do with Tennessee’s new voter photo ID law.
Instead, volunteers and city officials said people were turned away because of address problems while others gave up in the face of long lines and overwhelmed poll workers.
In Nashville, a coalition organized by government watchdog group Tennessee Citizen Action had about 125 volunteer poll watchers working Tuesday.
Asked what problems they were seeing, Director Mary Mancini said, “What aren’t they seeing?”
She ticked off the issues.
“There’s one polling place with 5 voting machines and only one machine operator. They’re running out of change-of-address forms and people are being sent away. They’re running out of provisional ballots. … People are not being offered provisional ballots; they’re just being turned away,” Mancini said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A woman who couldn’t obtain photo identification and didn’t think she’d be able to vote was allowed to through a rarely used exemption in Tennessee’s new voter ID law.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/Shkz4U ) reported 56-year-old Cora Beach voted Thursday by signing an affidavit that she is “indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without paying a fee.”
In doing so, Beach was able to take advantage of a clause that exempts voters who claim religious objections to being photographed or to the indigent.
Beach visited driver vehicle centers in Davidson County three times recently, only to have her application to acquire a photo ID turned down. She lacked marriage licenses, including one from Ohio, to allow officials to trace her birth name of Cora Jones to her current name.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday ordered election officials to accept Memphis’ library photo identification cards for voting purposes through the Nov. 6 general election if the voter is otherwise properly registered, reports Richard Locker. And the Shelby County Election Commission has already ordered its polling staff to comply immediately, said chairman Robert Meyers.
“The instructions are to accept as valid the Memphis photo library cards, which means those voters that present with a Memphis library photo ID would then be allowed to vote on the machines,” Meyers said. “And any voter who has cast a provisional paper ballot with a Memphis photo library ID would not need to do anythin additional (for their vote to be counted).”
The election commission said that through Wednesday’s voting, only 19 people had been forced to cast provisional paper ballots because of issues relating to photo ID, including but not limited to those with Memphis library photo IDs. That’s out of more than 190,000 people attempting to vote so far, or 0.01 percent.
The state’s high court decided to accept the state’s request for permission to appeal last week’s state Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee’s voter photo ID law. But the ruling also ruled that the city-issued library photo ID cards are acceptable for voting by properly registered voters. The state, which opposes the city-issued cards, appealed that provision of the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Under the provisions of the appeal process the state used, the Court of Appeals’ order would normally be stayed, or delayed, until the appeal is decided. “However, the right to vote has profound constitutional significance,” the Supreme Court order issued Thursday morning said.
“In light of the impending general election on November 6, 2012, the Court has determined that the stay should be lifted for the limited purpose of ordering the defendants (Secretary of State) Tre Hargett and (State Election Coordinator) Mark Goins to immediately advise the Shelby County Election Commission to accept, for the November 6, 2012 general election and until otherwise ordered by this Court, the photo library cards issued by the City of Memphis Public Library as acceptable ‘evidence of identification’ as provided in” the state voter photo ID law.
After the Court of Appeals ruling last week, state election officials told the Shelby County Election Commission to allow registered voters who present the library photo cards to vote on paper provisional ballots but not regular touch-screen voting machines. State officials said that if the Court of Appeals ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court — or if the voters presented proper photo ID identified in the state statute within by two days after the Nov. 6 election — the provisional ballots would be counted. But if the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and determined that the library cards were not accepted, the provisional ballots would not be counted unless the voter presented acceptable photo ID by Nov. 8.