Tag Archives: photo ID

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.

Federal judge upholds TN voter photo ID law

A federal judge in Nashville has upheld Tennessee’s voter ID law prohibiting the use of student identification cards at the polls, reports The Tennessean.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger on Monday granted the state’s request to dismiss the case and upheld the law as constitutional. The students who brought the case in March wanted to use their school identification cards to vote and said the state denying them the ability to do that was age discrimination.

Her ruling comes after four years of debate over Tennessee’s law but does not necessarily end discussion because the ruling could be appealed.

…Trauger’s ruling is largely based on a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case called Crawford vs. Marion County Election Board. That case upheld Indiana’s law requiring voters to show photo identification as a constitutional way to prevent voter fraud. It also said that requiring people to get state identification cards did not create enough burden for the court to overturn the law.

“Under the Tennessee Voter ID Law, everyone is required to obtain some form of acceptable photo identification in order to vote,” Trauger wrote in the memo. “Students, like everyone else, can select among a state-issued driver license, a United States passport, or the free, state-issued non-driver identification card.

“Admittedly, allowing students to use these cards (student IDs) would make it easier for them to vote, but it does not automatically follow that not allowing them to use their student identification cards imposes a severe burden or otherwise abridges their right to vote.”

The case was filed by the Fair Elections Legal Network and the Nashville firm of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison on behalf of a group of students from the Nashville Student Organizing Committee and seven students from Tennessee State University, Belmont University and Fisk University. Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins were named as defendants.

Student lawsuit seeks to make college ID valid for voting in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A group of Tennessee college students wants a federal court to require the state to accept their school identification cards as valid voter identification.

The out-of-state students attending Fisk University and Tennessee State University say in the lawsuit filed in Nashville on Wednesday they would like to vote in Tennessee but lack proper ID. Tennessee will not accept identification cards from other states nor will it accept student identification cards from Tennessee colleges and universities.

The students say the voter ID law is unconstitutional, violating the students’ right to vote and their right to equal protection. They note Tennessee does accept college and university identification cards issued by the state to workers, just not to students. And they say that obtaining a free Tennessee identification card that is accepted at the polls is a difficult and time-consuming procedure.

According to the lawsuit, student IDs from state schools were originally included as valid identification in the voter ID bill that became law in 2011, but they were taken out after lawmakers expressed concerns that student IDs were easy to duplicate.

The lawsuit claims that lawmakers did not offer any evidence that student ID cards are more vulnerable than any other accepted form of voter ID.

It also says that while lawmakers were making it more difficult for young people to vote, they were making it easier for older people to vote. Lawmakers dropped the age at which people could vote by an absentee ballot without demonstrating any special circumstances from 65 to 60.

The suit names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants. A spokesman for the officials said they are unable to comment on pending litigation.

Last year, a report by the Government Accountability Office found states that had adopted strict voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that had not. Those drops were steepest among those aged 18-23.

After the report was released in October, Hargett dismissed it, claiming it used biased information from a “progressive data firm.”

Voting rights advocates consider another legal challenge to TN photo ID law

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A legendary Tennessee lawyer whose push for voting rights dated back to the civil rights movement died last summer, not long before a new federal report found evidence that he might have had a point about that state’s voter identification law.

Now many of those who worked closely with him say they intend to keep the cause alive.

George Barrett died in August, two months before a new report by the Government Accountability Office found that states — including Tennessee — which toughened their voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not.

While there were few reports of voting problems in Tennessee following the Nov. 4 general election, voter advocates say the report justifies the need to examine the effects of the voter ID law in Tennessee, one of 33 states to enact laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls. In doing so they hope to rekindle the efforts of Barrett, a one-man crusader whose courtroom advocacy dated back to the lunch-counter sit-ins of the early 1960s, when it was rare for a white attorney to take up the cause of black college students.

“We are running with the momentum George generated,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which supported Barrett in a lawsuit filed in 2012 against the state’s voter ID law. “His inspiration continues to give us the energy and the wherewithal to move forward, to ensure that access to the ballot box is available to all Tennessee citizens.”
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Cooper says victims of ‘voter suppression’ should retaliate by voting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper on Wednesday urged Tennesseans to vote this election cycle following a recent report that shows states that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not.

The press conference organized by Cooper in Nashville was held on the first day of early voting. The general election is Nov. 4.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative agency, said that as of June, 33 states have enacted laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

Republicans who have pushed for the legislation say the requirement will reduce fraud, but Democrats insist the laws are a GOP effort to reduce Democratic turnout on Election Day.

The report compared election turnout in Kansas and Tennessee — which tightened voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections — to voting in four states that didn’t change their identification requirements.

Specifically in Tennessee, it estimated reductions in voter turnout were from 2 percent to 3 percent steeper than they were in the other states examined. The four other states, which did not make their voter ID laws stricter, were Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Maine.
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Study finds photo ID law reduced TN voter turnout — especially for blacks, youths

By Alan Fram, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — States that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not, with disproportionate falloffs among black and younger voters, a nonpartisan congressional study released Wednesday concluded.

As of June, 33 states have enacted laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls, the study said. Republicans who have pushed the legislation say the requirement will reduce fraud, but Democrats insist the laws are a GOP effort to reduce Democratic turnout on Election Day.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative agency, was released less than a month from elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

The office compared election turnout in Kansas and Tennessee — which tightened voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections — to voting in four states that didn’t change their identification requirements.

It estimated that reductions in voter turnout were about 2 percent greater in Kansas and from 2 percent to 3 percent steeper in Tennessee than they were in the other states examined. The four other states, which did not make their voter ID laws stricter, were Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Maine.

“GAO’s analysis suggests that the turnout decreases in Kansas and Tennessee beyond decreases in the comparison states were attributable to changes in those two states’ voter ID requirements,” the report said.

The study cautioned that the results from Kansas and Tennessee don’t necessarily apply to other states with stricter ID laws. It also found that of 10 other studies that mostly focused on voting before 2008, five found no significant impact from voter ID laws, four found decreases and one found an increase.

The report said that in Kansas and Tennessee, reduced voter turnout was sharper among people aged 18 to 23 than among those from 44 to 53. The drop was also more pronounced among blacks than whites, Hispanics or Asians and was greater among newly registered voters than those registered at least 20 years.

Estimated falloff among black voters was nearly 4 percent greater than it was among whites in Kansas, and almost 2 percent larger among blacks than for whites in Tennessee, the report said. (Note: The report is HERE.)
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Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s letter bashing Rand Paul, noted in New York Times

State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, wrote an “open letter” to Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul that roundly criticizes Paul on subjects including laws mandating a photo ID for voting, which Republicans have enacted in Tennessee and other states where they have legislative majorities. Hardaway and the letter are mentioned in a New York Times story on Paul declaring that Republicans have gone too far in pushing voter ID laws. (Note: That post is below or HERE)

Here’s the full letter by Hardaway, which came with the headline, ‘Who do Republicans like Rand Paul actually represent?’:
Today, in my beloved Memphis, the Republican National Committee is continuing their spring meeting. Among the various decisions being made and events taking place is one of particular interest to me: a luncheon featuring a keynote speech from Kentucky Tea Party senator Rand Paul.

That Sen. Paul is speaking at a GOP luncheon is not at all notable; what is notable is that he is doing it here in Memphis, not one mile from the place where, on April 4, 1968, our city and our country was forever changed.

The legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King has weighed heavily on me lately, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the passage – and ultimate enactment – of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this year. This law came to fruition only through the life’s work of Dr. King and others, and is the codification of the great dream that he spoke of on our nation’s National Mall on a hot day the summer before.

The Civil Rights Act created the framework for a number of necessary laws and changes in law enforcement that followed and were long overdue. Among its many provisions, it barred the unequal application of voter registration requirements; outlawed discrimination in hotels like the one Sen. Paul will be speaking at, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations; and it desegregated public facilities and encouraged the desegregation of public schools, authorizing the Attorney General to file suits to force school boards and districts across the country to comply.

It was truly a victory for all Americans – regardless of race, gender, creed, or financial circumstance. Its merits and protections have continuously been a vital part of the fabric of this country, and we all have benefitted from a freer and more just nation for it.

So for Senator Paul – who has poorly taken on the cause of promoting the Republican Party to more diverse audiences but has openly criticized the Civil Rights Act for infringing on the rights of private businesses to discriminate – to come here, to Memphis of all places, and espouse the principles and ‘goodness’ of today’s Republican Party, excuse me if I’m not buying it.

Mr. Paul has a sordid history with race relations, not helped by his hiring to his inner circle and subsequent defense of Jack Hunter, who for 13 years was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as “The Southern Avenger” and supported white racial pride. Hunter was Paul’s Social Media Director, and one of his advisers on foreign policy. He admitted that not only did he know about Hunter’s past – which included frequently dressing in a Confederate wrestling mask – but that it would not have affected his decision to hire him.

Senator Paul also supports the cynical campaign by Republicans in states all across the country to restrict eligible Americans’ access to voting. Paul has said that he supports voter ID requirements, and dismissed the need for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – because “we’re beyond that now” and “we have an African-American president.”

Get real, Senator.

It has been well documented that in places like Ohio, Texas, here in Tennessee and states throughout the nation, Republican-backed measures ranging from requiring identification at the polls, reducing the number of polling locations, gutting the amount of early voting hours and days, and eliminating same-day registration have been part of a coordinated effort to make it more difficult for working families, women, African Americans, Latinos, and young people to vote. Thankfully in Wisconsin and Arkansas, the Civil Rights Act and what’s left of the Voting Rights Act were in place to slow them down.

Early voting has been a stalwart in black communities – particularly on Sundays after church services – where families can travel together to vote with the flexibility from a work or school schedule that middle class Americans typically cannot afford to alter. Senator Paul and the RNC know this, and Republicans have openly admitted that the purpose of these laws is to block Democratic voters from the polls.

Because, if you can’t win the game fair and square, changing the rules is your only option.

These days, with his extensive travel schedule, it is clear that Mr. Paul is more preoccupied with his presidential aspirations than the business of representing his constituents in Congress – let alone all Americans as he wishes to do. Never mind his crusading opposition to the Affordable Care Act that over one million Tennesseans have already benefitted from, or how badly Tennessee’s poor children would be hurt by his wanting to close the Department of Education.

Though this then begs the question – who do Republicans like Rand Paul really represent?

Certainly not any of the hardworking people in Memphis.aring Republicans have gone too far in pushing voter ID laws.

Rand Paul in Memphis: Republicans going ‘too crazy’ with voter ID and ‘offending people’ (G.A. Hardaway agrees)

In an interview with the New York Times during the RNC meeting at Memphis, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky broke Friday with fellow Republicans who have pushed for stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls, saying that the focus on such measures alienates and insults African-Americans and hurts the party.

“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

Mr. Paul becomes the most prominent member of his party — and among the very few — to distance himself from the voting restrictions and the campaign for their passage in states under Republican control, including North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, that can determine presidential elections. Civil rights groups call the laws a transparent effort to depress black turnout.

Speaking here in a mostly black and Democratic city with its own painful history of racism, Mr. Paul said that much of the debate over voting rights had been swept up in the tempest of racial politics.

The senator has had his own struggles with civil rights issues, hedging at times on his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, notably, he did not on Friday denounce voter ID laws as bad policy or take back previous statements in which he had said it was not unreasonable for voters to be required to show identification at the polls. He says these laws should be left to the states. (Kentucky does not have a restrictive voter identification statute.)

Instead, in his comments, he suggested that Republicans had been somewhat tone deaf on the issue. In the last three years, the voting rights fight has extended to more than 30 states and taken on a more partisan tone. The measures that have passed or are under consideration vary. Some require that voters come to the polls with a birth certificate, passport or other proof of citizenship. Others would cut back on early voting.

…Mr. Paul was in Memphis for the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting, but beforehand, he sat down to discuss his views on voting rights, public education and antipoverty policies with a group of black pastors.

Afterward, in a news conference, Mr. Paul admitted he still had a lot of work to do. Sometimes, he said, his audiences tell him: “I like what you’re saying. I’m still not voting for you.”

“That’s why you’ve got to keep saying it,” he said.

…After his meeting with the pastors in Memphis, Mr. Paul traveled a few blocks to address the Republican gathering, but he made no mention of voting rights. Instead, he hit on the message that the party needed to soften its edges and show more sympathy to populations that have felt overlooked and maligned by Republicans.

…Some Democrats were not impressed by Mr. Paul’s efforts at outreach. G. A. Hardaway, a member of the Tennessee General Assembly, published a letter on Friday that called out Mr. Paul for his past statements on the Civil Rights Act and for saying that he did not think it was unreasonable to ask voters to produce drivers licenses.

“Get real, Senator,” Mr. Hardaway said. “To come here, to Memphis of all places, and espouse the principles and ‘goodness’ of today’s Republican Party,” he added. “Excuse me if I’m not buying it.”


Note: The interview came on the same day that the Tennessee Democratic Party distributed Hardaway’s “open letter” to Paul. The full text is HERE.

Singing students evicted from House subcommittee; voter ID bill they backed then killed

A House subcommittee meeting turned sour Wednesday when a group of college students began singing to protest a one-year delay of a bill allowing student identification cards as voting ID by students registered to vote in Tennessee, reports the Commercial Appeal.

House Local Government Subcommittee Chairman Joe Carr, R-Murfreesboro, ordered the students removed and declared a five-minute recess. But a minute into the recess, with some members out of the room, he gaveled the panel back to order as fellow Republicans moved quickly to reconsider the yearlong study of the matter and then killed the bill altogether without the study.

“This committee will not be hijacked,” said Carr, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election in the Aug. 7 state GOP primary.

The 30 or so students walked out on their own, holding hands to form a chain and still singing “Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around” as they walked down the corridor to exit the Legislative Plaza complex.

When Republicans pushed through the state’s voter photo-ID law in 2011, it named several government-issued ID cards as acceptable on election day, for people previously registered to vote. It specifically excluded college ID cards, which Democrats charged was aimed at suppressing student voting.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, tried to amend a bill he presented in the House subcommittee Wednesday to allow valid student ID cards. Fisk University student Justin Jones told the subcommittee he has registered to vote in Tennessee but has no driver’s license, passport, gun-carry permit or other photo ID required under the law for voting. He asked that his Fisk photo ID, and others issued by Tennessee colleges, be allowed.

The panel killed the amendment but voted to send the issue to a state research agency for study and a report to lawmakers in 2015, which Hardaway agreed to. But when Carr called up the next bill, the students began singing.

“You’re out of order!” Carr declared, banging his gavel and ordering sergeants-at-arms to “move them out.” He gaveled a five-minute recess as the students cleared — but 64 second later, Carr returned to his seat, declared a quorum of members and gaveled the meeting back to order, even though some members weren’t present.

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, quickly said, “It’s come to my attention we need to reconsider the bill,” a motion Carr declared approved on an unrecorded voice vote. Hill then moved for a vote on the bill, which Carr declared failed on another voice vote, killing it for the year.

Senate Republicans kill Democratic bill allowing college ID for voting

A Senate committee rejected a bill Tuesday that would have let students at public colleges and universities use their campus identification cards to vote, reports the Tennessean.

The Senate State & Local Committee voted 7-2 against Senate Bill 1082, which would have amended the voter ID law that the Tennessee General Assembly passed less than three years ago.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, the Memphis Democrat who sponsored the measure, argued that the voter ID requirement has been a burden to students because they often do not have driver’s licenses.

…The panel spent about seven minutes debating the bill, which has been pending since last year. Similar measures have failed in the past.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, noted that the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the law as it is currently written last fall. The law requires voters to show a state or federally issued ID at the polls, but it explicitly bars the use of IDs from state colleges.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to wade back into these waters in this way at this time,” he said.

Note: Sen. Kyle issued a short news release afterwards. Here it is:
NASHVILLE – Republican lawmakers on Tuesday batted down a proposal by state Sen. Jim Kyle to allow college ID for voter identification, similar to other states such as Arkansas and Mississippi.

“Other states have successfully allowed college ID as proof of identification without inviting voter fraud,” Sen. Kyle said. “Tennessee allows other forms of state-issued ID, such as state employee identification cards, but today the Republican majority singled out the identification every college student has as invalid for voting.”

The legislation, SB 1082, would have allowed college students to use state-issued photo identification from institutions of higher learning as evidence of identification for voting. State law currently requires photo ID at the ballot box. Sen. Kyle’s proposal was defeated Tuesday in the State and Local committee on a 7-2 party-line vote.