The measure sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican, was approved 29-3. The companion bill has been assigned to a House subcommittee. If the measure passes the House and is approved by the governor, then Tennessee would become the eighth state to enact such legislation.
Under the proposal, a person who doesn’t have proper identification would be able to vote by a provisional ballot.
A voter who is indigent and can’t afford to get proof of identification, or has a religious objection to being photographed, could vote by obtaining an “affidavit of identity.”
Ketron reluctantly accepted an amendment brought by Democratic Sen. Eric Stewart that would exempt Tennesseans 65 and older from providing identification with a photograph.
The Belvidere Democrat said the legislation without the change would be disrespectful to people like his 79-year-old grandmother, who has been voting for years, but doesn’t have a photo on her driver’s license.
“I feel like she and thousands of other citizens across the state of Tennessee have earned the right to go to the polls without being questioned,” Stewart said.
Voting against the bill were Democratic senators Beverly Marrero of Memphis, Andy Berke of Chattanooga and Lowe Finney of Jackson.
But Mae Beavers said the legislation is necessary and sees no problem with people having to show photo identification.
“If people can get a photo ID for other reasons, then I don’t know why they can’t get an ID to vote,” said the Mt. Juliet Republican.
The Senate deferred action on a measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican, that would require people seeking to register to vote to document their citizenship with driver’s licenses, passports or birth certificates.
The legislation has also been assigned to a House subcommittee on Wednesday.