Repeal Burdensome "Photo ID to Vote" Law
What Public Chapter No. 323 does: The “Photo ID to Vote” law, which became effective January 1, 2012, requires all voters who choose to vote in person to present a valid, government-issued photo ID. If the voter does not have a valid government ID on his or her person, he or she may cast a provisional ballot which will only be counted if the voter returns within two days after casting the ballot and shows a photo ID. Voters who are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed must complete an affidavit stating that they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed in order to vote.
ACLU-TN seeks to repeal this law because: It poses an unnecessary and undue burden on one of our most fundamental constitutional rights– the right to cast a ballot in elections.
- Even though the government-issued photo ID is free, the list of documents required to get the ID is too restrictive and the documents on it are often not free and are difficult to obtain for many Tennesseans. Expenses involved in acquiring a photo ID card, including travel time, transportation, lost wages, and costs for the back-up identification necessary to obtain a photo ID essentially constitute a poll tax, and will prevent some individuals from voting. While the law includes language to allow individuals to file indigency oaths which exempt them from the photo ID requirement, it could be uncomfortable and even humiliating to request the exemption. It is also unclear how information about the exemption will be shared and likely that individuals will simply not go to the polls because they do not have a photo ID.
- Such requirements typically have a disparate impact on rural residents, minorities, seniors and limited-income and disabled people, who are less likely to have access to the documents required to obtain a photo ID. An Advancement Project study show that 11 percent of eligible voters don’t have updated, government-issued photo IDs: 25 percent of African Americans, 15 percent of those earning less than $35,000, 18 percent of citizens age 65 or older and 20 percent of voters age 18 to 29.
- This law is a solution in search of a problem. While supporters argue that it is necessary to require photo IDs in order to combat efforts to skew elections, studies clearly show that there is virtually no evidence of any organized voter fraud, nor evidence that photo ID laws would prevent fraud. Lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote.
- Even if voter fraud did exist, the law would fail to adequately address it as any individual willing to commit voter fraud will likely be just as willing to sign a false affidavit attesting to indigency or a religious objection.
- In the short time since its implementation, this bill has already made voting difficult for numerous voters. The news has captured some of these stories, and these are just the beginning:
Please also thank those brave legislators who have voted against this legislation so far.
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