Even before the 2012 elections themselves take place in Tennessee, a war has begun over the ground rules for voting — specifically over the law, passed in the 2011 General Assembly, requiring would-be voters to present an officially recognized photo ID at their polling place.
Against a background of charges that the law was passed as part of a Republican-backed national effort to suppress turnout among likely Democratic voters, especially seniors and low-income voters, and of efforts to change the law, a series of informational events have been scheduled in Memphis, including two this week featuring Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins.
On Wednesday, October 26, Goins will appear at a joint meeting of the American Association for Retired People and the Aging Commission of the Mid-South at noon at 2670 Union Avenue. Later Wednesday Goins will be on hand at the Board of Education building on Avery St. for an informational session sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Another meeting, sponsored by the Shelby County Election Commission and featuring Tennessee Safety Driver Services director Michael Hogan, will be held in the Shelby County Commission chambers in the Vasco A. Smith Jr. Administration Building from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1.
Meanwhile, Lowe Finney and Mike Turner, the Democratic chairs of the state Senate and state House, respectively, have filed legislation to repeal the photo-ID bill, contending, in Finney’s words, “This new requirement will put hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans in danger of losing their right to vote.”
Objections to the law have focused on the difficulty and expense of acquiring photo IDs, especially for seniors, as well as on the exclusion of college IDs from eligibility.
Last week, state Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons announced an agreement with 30 county clerks in Tennessee, including Shelby County Clerk Wayne Mashburn, to provide free of charge upgraded drivers’ licenses with photos to drivers who possess drivers’ licenses without photos.