Aug 6 2015
06:59 am

USA Today: A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas' voter photo ID law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Opponents of photo ID requirement had previously tried to block it based on a provision of the Voting Rights Act restricting certain states from changing voting laws without federal approval. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this part of federal law, so opponents tried again, citing a different provision that prohibits discrimination against minority voters. This time they were successful.

So this is actually a better outcome because the ruling has a broader scope. And, Tennessee's photo ID law is similar to the one in Texas.

These laws are clearly intended to make it more difficult for some people to vote. For example, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, registered voters seeking a voter photo ID must provide "proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate), and two proofs of Tennessee residency (such as a copy of a utility bill, vehicle registration/title, or bank statement)."

Obtaining a birth certificate could involve fees. Another complication involves women whose names have changed because of marriage. They must provide a copy of their marriage licence, which could involve more fees.

Then they must then go to one of the "48 Driver Service Centers across the state" that offer "full service" including photo ID.

There are six service centers listed for Knoxville, but photo ID is only available at one -- the Knoxville/Strawberry Plains Driver Services Center. It's open Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM, except "taking applicants may be stopped at 3:00 p.m. in order to process applicants by 5:00 p.m."

There is no bus service to that location, so seniors and disabled people who don't drive have to arrange other transportation, which could involve more fees. Also, there are no service centers at all in Grainger, Jefferson, Loudon, and Union counties.

R. Neal's picture

P.S. Today is the 50th

P.S. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act being signed into law by LBJ.

Min's picture

Timing... they say, is everything.

R. Neal's picture

Also, a question for the

Also, a question for the lawyers out there.

This 5th district ruling is not binding in Tennessee. A similar suit would need to be brought here, in which case the Texas ruling would be "persuasive?"

Or, the Texas ruling could be appealed all the way to the U.S Supreme Court, and if they upheld the lower court it would be binding in all states?

Joe328's picture

Tennessee did not require

Tennessee did not require registering live births until the early 60s. A Bible record, sworn statement from midwife or family member was excepted for years to obtain a TN birth certificate. After 9-11 TN requires a sworn statement from parents or doctor. This was in the news recently about a Sevier County veteran who was trying to obtain a passport.

Tennessee also allows law enforcement officers to hold drivers license and issue a receipt (no photo) to ensure driver show up to court. You can have your photo ID legally taken while on the way to vote.

Mary L. Wilson's picture

Voter/PHOTO ID laws are ALEC laws and should be challenged.

And thanks, Randy, for pointing out the obstacles to voting in our 'Volunteer State'. Tennessee's Voter/PHOTO ID Law violates Amendments 14, 15, 19 and 24, and most assuredly Amendment 19 regarding POLL TAXES. In this version of the National ALEC, persons who apply for a 'photo ID approved by the State MUST obtain a copy of his or her birth certificate, and NO government office will provide these 'official copies' FREE. This effects older, rural citizens the most. Then there is another hidden to the source and/or the cost of mailing requests for the copy. Also, providing proof that one is a citizen is another burden like rent receipts, etc. And once a person has this 'proof', travel to the 'closest DL Center' is very costly...I have a list of the 48 centers, and Knox County's only center serves 6 surrounding counties for this service. And after these ALEC laws went into effect, less than 70 persons were found to be trying to vote or did vote illegally across the State, most of them were innocent and/or did not know all the obstacles to voting. The good news is that this year, we have great volunteers who are helping, educating, encouraging and helping protect the RIGHT to VOTE here in East Tennessee. So, if anyone has been denied their right to vote, let us know. WE CAN HELP. We also are helping those who have paid their debt to society regain their Voting Rights. And yes, it would be great if a state-wide lawsuit would be filed here. Meanwhile, our goal is to register thousands of new voters in the next 18 months. And our services are FREE.

Bird_dog's picture

Pack your bags to use the Straw Plains office

My brother-in-law moved here and lived with us for several months. Trying to get a TN DL. They would not accept his out-of-state license. No, they needed a certified birth certificate. Then they would not accept our address as his residence. My husband went with him (it took 3 full-day trips!) and they would not accept our address from him! Wanted utility bills in his name. They are in my name. So then they wanted to see our marriage certificate (which was in a safe deposit box)!!! Several others in the waiting area had been sitting there for hours, and had to make 2-3 trips, with their teenager to get their DL. We are retired and had the time and resources to run the obstacle course. But anyone who thinks photo ID is no big deal, should volunteer to help someone get one!

Joe328's picture

Birth Certificates as the

Birth Certificates as the only proof of citizenship is a problem for thousands of Tennessee citizens. A friend was adopted in another state which had some unusual restrictions on naming the child. His adopted parents never used his official name from his birth certificate. He was in his mid 60s when Tennessee required him to bring in a birth certificate to renew his drivers license. TN would not except his Social Security card or retired military ID. Until he saw a copy of his birth certificate he didn't realize his name was different and TN refused to renew his license. Someone at Sevier County Court advised him to do an official name change which cost him $150. As an adult it is fairly easy to do a name change TN obtain a new birth certificate. For decades you could obtain a Social Security card, join the military, and register to vote without a birth certificate.

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