Requiring photo ID to vote

So a Tennessee House of Representatives committee voted to approve a voter ID bill which would require TN voters to present photo ID at the polling place on election day. There are a few exemptions (people who living in nursing homes; people who have religious objections to having their photo taken). Voters without ID will have to case a provisional ballot which would be taken by election officials and “considered” later.

A similar bill has already passed the state Senate, so this bill is virtually guaranteed to pass.

My first reaction was, how can this not be considered a poll tax? Photo IDs are not free, and I dont’ see any provision to provide free state photo IDs to eligible voters. There are at least a half a million eligible voters in Tennessee do not have drivers licenses, even leaving aside the very poor or homeless. Also, I don’t seem to recall hearing anything about rampant voter fraud in this state, so why is this even necessary?

Also, I notice that by exempting seniors living in nursing homes, the Republicans have protected a class of voters most likely to vote for their party while ignoring groups like the poor and homeless who might be more likely to vote Democratic.

But I also read that 14 other states have passed Photo ID election laws, so I imagine that the concept has passed some kind of judicial review. So I have a GD question and a GQ question:

  1. Am I over reacting here? I don’t think so.
  2. How can this be defended as constitutional, i.e., not a poll tax?

Shrug It’s been required in New Mexico for a while now. Doesn’t seem to be a big deal…I mean, if I can drive to the poll, I have to have my drivers license in my pocket anyway, so how hard is it to just take the thing out and show it to the poll people?

I never have understood why this is such a big deal to some people. I don’t know about the Constitutionality of the issue (i.e. whether it constitutes a ‘poll tax’), but if the problem is that poor people don’t have drivers licenses (all the poor people I know do), then there are alternatives for ID…or, if not, then put in documentation for a grant or something to get folks without ID’s the ability to get a valid ID for free if they meet the proper financial (or other) criteria. Seems simple enough to me, though I’m probably missing some obscure point or other here.


You might want to read “Crawford v Marion County Election Board”, where in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that Indiana’s voter ID requirement was constitutional, because the burden that it placed on voters was minimal and exceed by Indiana’s desire to avoid election fraud.

Of course, what seems to distinguish that case from this one, is that in the Indiana case, it was possible for voters to get free ID cards.

You also might want to check out this law review article, which seems to agree that Voter ID laws should be unconstitutional (but that, as a rule, the Courts haven’t found them so)

If the state provided free photo IDs without undue burden to the voter, that would be one thing. But the bill makes no such provision.

Take my sister-in-law. She is disabled and cannot drive or fly. As far as I know she has no photo ID, and her only income is Social Security Disability. How can the state force her to pay $X to secure a photo ID to vote, when she already has a voter registration card? And again, what problem is this trying to solve?

Yes, I know this is the United States, but even here not everyone:
(1) owns a car;
(2) drives to the poll; or
(3) has a driver’s license.

If she wanted to buy booze or anything else requiring an ID (say, a prescription), she’d need some sort of photo ID for that. This seems very similar to me.

As for the provision for a free ID, I’m good with that for what must be the minuscule percentage of the population that doesn’t have some other valid form of ID (the folks who don’t every drive or buy anything they would need an ID for). Push for that provision to be mandatory and there you go…Bob’s your Uncle!


She doesn’t drink… she does take prescriptions (many, many prescriptions) but I don’t think those require photo ID - certainly I’ve picked up her drugs for her before without identifying myself at all.

If a provision to provide free photo ID for those who need it were added, that would solve the poll tax issue but then the question is one of priorities – does the state need to spend all that taxpayer money to provide photo ID when they haven’t demonstrated any existing problem with our current requirements? There’s no evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Tennessee.

You don’t need to do the first two to have the last one. A drivers license is a de facto form of ID that is needed in for more than just driving a car in the US. So…what percentage of people (not even voters) in the US has no drivers license? 1%? Less?

For those people (those who don’t have some other valid form of photo ID that could be used to vote…say, a passport, which is what my Grandmother used to have since she couldn’t get a drivers license) I’m perfectly cool with giving them a free ID if they are willing to go through whatever process it would take to acquire it.


Meh. I’ve never quite gotten what the big deal was either. In fact I’ve always been kind of stunned that you need to show an ID to buy beer but not to vote. And I could be wrong on this, but in a lot of workplaces don’t you need to provide a photo ID when you starting a new job?

Also, how much does it really cost to get a state-issued ID (not a driver’s license, just an official identification card)? In my state it’s about 10 bucks and lasts eight years. Now, I understand if you’re living hand to mouth, $10 can be a lot of money, but if it’s really that much of a problem then they should also pass a bill waiving the fees for those on public assistance or unemployment. If they did that, then I’d be perfectly fine with this legislation.

I think any law that encourages old, half blind people to keep their drivers license is a good idea.
For body shops.

Any ideas on the bizarre exemption for nursing home residents? What’s the purpose of that?

You can continue to parse this to a one off for your sister in law for ever, but the fact is that for most people doing most ordinary things in the US, you need some sort of valid ID. Does she never write checks? Well, maybe she always pays in cash. Does she own a fire arm? Well, maybe she doesn’t. Does she every need to have credit? Well, maybe she never needs to go to a bank. And on and on. Eventually, however, you are going to eliminate 99.999999999% of the people who DO do those things, and who need and have some type of valid ID (mostly a drivers license, since that seems to be the de facto standard in the US).

No idea why Tennessee is doing it…it could be some political game being played, for all I know. Yeah…the tax payers would have to pay for the licenses for those few people who have absolutely nothing valid for ID. So, they’d have to decide if voter fraud is worth the expense of a couple million dollars (or whatever) to buy some licenses for a few hundred or thousand people.


You have to be able to drive to get a license in the first place, so I imagine it’s > 1% but I really don’t know.

Well hereis a start for one particular area.

Thanks sh1bu1. Much more than 1%, in your sample. I posed a question to GQ because I really don’t know.

On the other hand, that’s kind of a red herring anyway. Drivers licenses still cost money to obtain, so requiring them in order to vote presents a financial hurdle to some people.

I’m in the minority that thinks we should have a national ID of some sort. It should be free and easy to obtain. Among other things it should be able to demonstrate what your immigration status is, and if and where you are registered to vote. I see no reason to not encode whether or not you are licensed to drive as well.

But the proposed laws requiring ID just seem to be a cynical attempt to repress voting among the poor (and New Yorkers).

Booze and prescriptions aren’t quite on the same level as voting, rights-wise. For virtually the entire history of this country, all that has been required to vote is a voter registration card. I see no reason to change that.

could be $50 and it expires after 6 or so years.

What about people convicted of drug crimes, who don’t qualify for public assistance?

I think it comes back to the “what problem is this trying to solve”?

How much voter fraud is there (everything I’ve read says it approaches zero, ACORN fear not withstanding), vs how many people who currently cast valid ballots will not be able to vote after the law takes effect (at least without spending money)?