Tennessee election officials have launched a public awareness campaign to educate state residents about a new law set to take effect next year. Beginning Jan. 2, Tennesseans must show photo identification before being allowed to vote.
Acceptable forms of photo ID include driver’s licenses, U.S. passports and government employee identification cards. Meanwhile, college photo IDs will not be accepted.
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.
The state Department of Safety says there are 126,262 registered voters in Tennessee who have opted not to have their photographs included on their driver’s licenses.
The photo ID law was passed by the Republican-controlled state General Assembly earlier this year. Sponsors said the measure was needed to thwart voter fraud.
Critics of the photo ID law, however, say it will discourage voter turnout and be a burden to elderly and poor Tennesseans. The American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, NAACP and AARP are among the groups that have expressed concerns about the law.
“There is no question this is an effort to disenfranchise voters,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, told The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal.
Although voter ID bills were introduced in more than 30 states, only Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin made them law. A similar measure was vetoed by the governor of North Carolina. ACLU leaders in Washington have asked U.S. Attorney. Gen. Eric Holder to declare the new laws in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Should a photo ID be required to vote in Tennessee?
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Results of the poll and comments from readers will appear on this page Aug. 16.