State coordinator: Tennessee photo ID law's effect minimal

Associated Press • Nov 13, 2012 at 6:51 AM

CHATTANOOGA — There were few complaints of people being turned away from the polls in Tennessee’s general election because they did not have an acceptable photo ID. Yet, opponents of the statute say any disenfranchisement is unacceptable.

State election coordinator Mark Goins told the Chattanooga Times Free Press problems meeting the photo ID requirement on Nov. 6 appeared to be minimal. The final tally of provisional ballots was not yet available. Those are votes cast by residents who can later show a valid photo ID and have their ballot counted.

Nashville attorney Doug Johnston is arguing against the statute in a case that is now before the Tennessee Supreme Court.

“You can’t say it’s ‘not that many’ when you’re talking about someone’s right to vote,” Johnston said. “I don’t understand the argument that it’s not very many, when (the state) can’t give any real statistics on voter fraud, which supposedly set all this law in action.”

Johnston said the Constitution is clear on qualifications for voting.

“With everything you would read in the newspaper, everyone thought (voter ID) was the issue,” Goins said Friday. “We received hundreds of calls on our voter hotline on (Election Day). ... I think we received a total of two photo ID questions.”

In Hamilton County, election officials reported 13 voters had to cast provisional ballots because they didn’t show valid identification, including a photo of themselves.

“Considering we voted 140,000 people, it’s probably about what I expected,” said Scott Allen, assistant administrator of elections for the Hamilton County Election Commission.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the photo ID statute last year. Opponents have argued the move was political and aimed at discouraging voting by groups that tend to vote Democratic — among them elderly, minority and student voters.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld the law days before the Nov. 6 election.

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