Newly Introduced State Legislation Would Enable Student IDs for Voting, Ban Library Cards

Measure would "restore sense of original bill," says Republican author; Memphians react cautiously, await Supreme Court ruling on entire Photo ID law.



State Senator Ketron
  • State Senator Ketron
A General Assembly measure that proposes a trade-off of sorts on two types of IDs that were formerly banned for voting purposes has drawn a cautious reaction from opponents of the state’s Photo ID law.

State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) will present a bill in the Senate State and Local Government committee Tuesday that would allow photo IDS issued by state colleges and universities to satisfy the controversial state law but would disallow photo IDs issued by public libraries.

In a press release from his office, Ketron said, “This legislation allows photo IDs issued by state community colleges and state universities as an acceptable form of identification. We allowed the use photo identification of faculty members of our state colleges and universities under the original Tennessee law which passed in 2011. We believe that this state issued ID has worked as a sufficient form of identification and that students should also be included.”

Ketron said one intent of his bill was to “clear…up confusion” about the use of library cards at polls. In a pre-election ruling last year on a suit brought by the City of Memphis the state Court of Appeals approved the rule of public library cards as consistent with the state law.

The state has appealed that ruling. “We considered locally issued cards when debating the original bill, but after reviewing the process, decided that the safeguards were not in place to ensure the integrity of the ballot like state and federally issued identification,” said Ketron. “We continue to believe that the safeguards are not in place to use these cards as acceptable identification for voting purposes.”

City Attorney Herman Morris, who vigorously argued for the validity of public library cards in last year’s legal action, seemed to regard the Ketron bill as potentially affording “some progress” in widening the compass of acceptable state IDs, but emphasized that the City regards the Photo ID law itself as unconstitutional and is awaiting a ruling on the measure as a whole from the state Supreme Court.

That opinion was echoed by Van Turner, a lawyer who serves as chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party. “Any advancement is a good thing,” Turner said of the bill’s intent to license student IDs, “but I’m disappointed that it would take library cards off the table.” That aspect of the bill would inconvenience “seniors and others who aren’t so mobile as students,” Turner said. “They’re picking and choosing.”

Like Morris, Turner said that the real issue was the fate of the Photo ID law itself.

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