They’re pretty busy these days down at the driver’s license renewal offices. As anyone who has ever had to stand in a long line to get a driver’s license renewed knows, these offices already have a lot to do.
But thanks to the Tennessee General Assembly, the state Department of Public Safety now has another chore to handle: Issuing photo IDs. State lawmakers passed a law earlier this year requiring all Tennesseans to show an approved form of photo identification before voting. The law takes effect in January, and that has left state election officials scrambling to inform Tennesseans of the new requirement and to help residents obtain the proper IDs.
The Associated Press reported this week that 663 photo IDs were issued Saturday during special operating hours at 19 state driver service centers. The centers will be open on the first Saturday of each month through next March for issuing such photos.
As of Oct. 30, state officials had issued 3,071 photo IDs. There has been no word as to what this new law has cost taxpayers. The extra employee hours and workload at driver service centers is beginning to add up, as it is in the areas where county clerks are assisting in the ID effort. It seems to be a lot of expense and headache to carry out what many critics have dismissed as a law in search of a problem.
When they return to work in January, perhaps lawmakers should consider making a number of tweaks to the voter ID law. (For example: Why is it that a state university-issued photo ID is acceptable for a professor or college employee to use for voting purposes, but not OK for a college student?)
Legislators should also consider requiring photos be included on all driver’s licenses in Tennessee. Currently, Tennesseans 65 and older can skip putting their photos on their driver’s license. That is one of the reasons state officials say as many as 100,000 may be in a need of a valid photo ID.