Sweeping changes to Tennessee voter ID laws to soon go into effect

Published: Jun. 27, 2011 at 7:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2011 at 9:00 PM CDT
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The changes will go into effect this Friday.
The changes will go into effect this Friday.

(WMC-TV) - The Tennessee General Assembly has made sweeping changes to local election laws that will soon go into effect, including a new requirement that states you must present a valid government photo ID to vote.

The new voting identification law will be enacted Friday.  It means, when voting in Tennessee, residents must prove American citizenship and present a valid government photo ID at the polls.

College students will not be allowed to use school IDs to vote.

According to Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis, lawmakers went to task over that item.

"Frankly, I think we're making it harder for young people to vote," he said. "If you don't start voting at a certain age, you don't ever start voting."

Republicans say the laws protect voting virtues, but Democrats call them voter suppression.  Here's how it will now work:

If you can't show proper ID, you'll vote by provisional ballot. Then, you will have four days to get your government-issued ID and present it to the Election Commission.

Voters in nursing and group homes will be exempt.

The law passed with the requirement that the state must issue free photo IDs to those who can't afford it.

Also starting Friday, the Department of Safety will issue free IDs. The fiscal note says it won't cost much, though most states spend about a half million dollars.

Once at the polls, allowed forms of ID include your driver's license, state or federal government-issued photo IDs - like a passport or military ID.

All ballots will be cross-referenced with state and federal records to make sure every voter is a U.S. citizen. Anyone who can't prove citizenship, will be purged from the voter registry.

A similar voter ID proposal was recently rejected in Arkansas. 17 states now require voter IDs. For a full list of Tennessee's 30 new election laws, click here.

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