House Passes Voter ID Bill Despite Constitutional Questions

The Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The passage came despite a state Attorney General’s opinion that the measure would likely be ruled a “poll tax” by a court

The state attorney general’s opinion released this week that says the courts are likely to find the bill unconstitutional if it costs something in order to qualify to vote. Such “poll taxes” were used in the Reconstruction South to deny the vote to former slaves.

Republican Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads says the strict requirement for a photo ID could hamper people in his rural district.

“The average voter in the district that I represent in order to get a photo ID as is required in this legislation, one would have to drive an average of 30 miles.”

Five Republicans joined Democrats to vote against the measure, though it passed 57 to 35. McDaniel, who abstained, says the question isn’t partisan but geographic.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Debra Maggart, says she’s still working on how pay for photo IDs for some Tennesseans who don’t have them.

“We have now located a funding source to provide IDs for folks who cannot afford one, in some other bills that I have moving through the system…”

Maggert hasn’t revealed her funding mechanism yet, but says she’s crafting it with Senate sponsors.

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Maggart, the Republican Caucus Chair, says her bill won’t cut down on all voter fraud, but it will at least require that the person who shows up at the polls is the same one on the voter rolls.

Maggart’s bill is HB 7/SB 16 Ketron.

Representative Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains looks at the cost of a state Department of Safety ID – $7.50 plus an additional charge of $2.

“You know we all spend money to get elected. It costs us anywhere from $5 a vote, $10 a vote. The governor spent $16 a vote. I’m just gonna tell everybody in my district, “If you don’t have a photo ID get ahold of me, I’ll buy you one.” At $7, that might be the cheapest vote we get, is go out, and buy them a photo ID, and be done with it.”

Niceley got a laugh – about the only one in the two-hour debate.

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