A voter registration card will no longer cut it when voting in Rutherford County as changes to state voting laws now require photo identification.
Beginning Jan. 1, registered voters in Tennessee will have to present a government-issued photo ID when showing up at the polls due to a recent change in the state’s election laws.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett recently issued a press release explaining that the new law comes on the heels of concern about voter fraud.
“I believe this new requirement is a common sense step that will increase voter confidence in our elections. Requiring photo IDs will decrease the chances that an eligible voter can be impersonated by someone else at the polls,” Hargett said.
Opponents to the new requirement claim it will disenfranchise voters.
Earlier this week, the Senate Democrat Caucus, citing the 2010 U.S. Census, asserted Tennessee has 689,301 people of voting age who don’t have a driver’s license or photo on their driver’s license.
Rutherford County Elections Administrator Nicole Lester said she believes the new law will remove some burden from election workers in Rutherford County.
“In the past, people just had to present their voter card, the election workers would take a signature and then compare those signatures. We’re now verifying through photograph instead of signature,” Lester said.
Lester said she also thinks the new law will make voting easier for individuals because they will no longer have to keep up with their voter registration card.
“It gets to the point where your Kroger card and every other card takes up space in your wallet, and I know for me, I’d take my voter registration card out,” Lester said.
Registered voters who do not have state or federal issued photo identification can obtain an ID for voting purposes free of charge at any driver service center in the state.
Photo identification is only required by law for those who are voting at polling places. Individuals voting by absentee ballot or at licensed nursing homes are not required to have a photo ID.
Photo IDs from state universities are not considered proper identification for voting purposes.
The Tennessee Department of State has urged each county to conduct public meetings explaining the new law to citizens.
Rutherford County held its town hall meeting Tuesday night with a slide presentation and short video explaining the new requirements.
Citizens were able to ask questions to the election commission and find out if their ID was acceptable under the new law.
“I strongly believe citizens of our state are comfortable with the idea of showing photo IDs in order to vote, just as they must do to board a plane, cash a check, or perform any number of routine activities,” Hargett said.