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Why won’t a college ID work for student voters?

Staff Report • Mar 22, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Why is it that a state-issued photo ID is acceptable for a university professor to use for voting purposes in Tennessee, but not OK for a college student? That is a question state legislators have been debating in recent days.

So far, they have not been able to provide a reasonable explanation. That hasn’t, however, prevented some lawmakers from continuing to champion this unfathomable restriction.

The state Senate approved a bill last week to include college photo IDs issued to students among the forms of identification accepted at the polls. Other forms of photo identification currently allowed are Tennessee driver’s licenses (even expired ones), passports and federal employee IDs.

On Wednesday, a provision allowing college IDs was struck from the House version of the Senate bill. The vote in the House Local Government Committee came after one Republican lawmaker complained a college ID could be “made up.”

Another lawmaker, Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, argued keeping the prohibition on college IDs was necessary because “there’s a public policy good in making sure that the right people are voting.” The “right people” should be all registered voters in Tennessee.

The photo ID law was passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011. Sponsors said the measure was needed to thwart voter fraud, but as shown in testimony heard by the state Supreme Court last month, supporters of the ID law have not produced any tangible evidence that such a problem exists.

Currently, absentee voters are exempt from photo ID requirements, as are residents of licensed nursing homes who vote at those facilities, voters with a religious objection to being photographed and voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee.

Yet students are not allowed to use their university-issued IDs to vote. Why? We are still awaiting an answer from Nashville.

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