Cooper, Durbin Raise Concerns Over Voter ID Law

Tennessee’s new law requiring a photo ID to vote is drawing fire from a few Democrats in Congress. Today Nashville Representative Jim Cooper hosted Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The two say many rightful voters could be turned away by the law.

The worry is the new state law, which was passed mostly by Republicans, would disenfranchise people lacking an acceptable ID – particularly minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.

Durbin sits on a subcommittee that’s delving into such new laws. He argues those laws require states to provide free IDs, which he says is a lot of trouble to solve an almost nonexistent problem. He pointed to an analysis by an affiliate of New York University’s law school.

“The Brennan Center, which does an investigation of issues like this, says it’s more likely to be struck by lightning and killed than to witness or see an instance of voter fraud in America.”

Durbin has sent a letter to Tennessee’s governor asking how his administration will make sure voters get appropriate IDs before next year’s election. Durbin says the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is also reviewing the new law.

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A representative for the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security gave the following statement on how state efforts are adapting to the new requirement:

We are working with the Division of Elections in the Secretary of State’s office on a direct mailing to 126,000 registered voters over age 60 to notify them about the photo requirement to vote in 2012. This will go out in late October or early November. The names and addresses were obtained by cross referencing the driver license data base with the voter registration data base.

Additionally, the Secretary of State’s office is providing a list to each county election commission of the names of these registered voters (over 60, without photo on driver license) to reach out them on a local basis. The Secretary of State’s office has more plans to communicate this including robo calls to registered voters and town hall meetings. Please contact that office for details.

Some other things Safety & Homeland Security had done: Commissioner Gibbons has written a column printed in two major newspapers about the requirements to get a phot ID for voting purposes. He is also speaking to groups about this issue whenever possible.

Also, to help reduce the wait time at driver service centers for voters who need government-issued photo IDs, these citizens will be placed in an “express service” category when entering a Driver Service Center. There will still be some wait time, but this should speed up the process for citizens needing photo IDs.

We plan to continue to find ways to communicate the new law and its requirements in the coming months. We want voters to get the photos IDs sooner, rather than later. As of August 31, we have issued 207 photo IDs for voting purposes.

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