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AARP goes Q&A on Voter ID

A new law that goes into effect on Jan. 1 requires nearly all Tennessee voters to take identification that includes a photograph to the polls when they vote. Naturally, this has generated a lot of questions. by Shelley Courington
Special to the Tri-State Defender

A new law that goes into effect on Jan. 1 requires nearly all Tennessee voters to take identification that includes a photograph to the polls when they vote.

Naturally, this has generated a lot of questions about what forms of identification are acceptable and what to do if you don’t have one.

AARP Tennessee wants to help you get the answers you need and deserve so that you can continue to exercise your right to vote. That’s why we’ve asked Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins to answer some of the questions we have heard:

AARP: Who must have a photo ID to vote?

Mark Goins: All voters must present a state or federally-issued photo ID at the ballot box starting on January 1, whether voting early or on Election Day. There are a few exceptions to this requirement, including those who vote absentee by mail, live in licensed nursing homes or assisted living centers and vote at those facilities; voters who are hospitalized; those with religious objections to being photographed; and voters who are indigent and cannot obtain a photo ID without paying a fee.

AARP: What forms of photo IDs are acceptable?

MG: The law was written broadly enough to allow election officials to accept nearly any state or federally-issued ID with the voter’s name and photo on it – whether they are current or expired, including: Tennessee driver licenses with photos, Department of Safety photo identification cards, state-issued handgun permit cards, U.S. military IDs with photos, military veterans identification cards with photos, U.S. passports and state and federal employee cards with name and photo.

AARP: What forms of photo IDs are not acceptable?

MG: Generally, photo IDs that are not issued by a state or federal government are not acceptable.  Bank cards, college student IDs, discount club cards, city and county government IDs and gym membership cards are examples of photo IDs that will not be accepted at the polls.

AARP: Where can I get an acceptable ID?

MG: If you do not have an acceptable form of photo identification for voting purposes, you may obtain a free one from the Tennessee Department of Safety at any participating location where driver licenses are issued.

AARP: Do I need to bring any documents with me to obtain a free photo ID from the Department of Safety?

MG: Yes. You will need proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and two proofs of Tennessee residency, such as a voter registration card, a utility bill, vehicle registration or a bank statement. Also, if your name has changed from the name listed on the birth certificate, you will need proof your name has changed, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or certified court order.   

AARP: Drivers over the age of 60 don’t have to get a photograph on their driver’s license. If I have one of those driver licenses, do I have to bring those other forms of identification with me to get a free ID card?

MG: A: No. If you have a non-photo driver license, you don’t need to bring any form of ID other than your current license.

AARP: If I show up to vote without a photo ID, I know I can cast a provisional ballot and return within two business days after Election Day with a photo ID. But what if I don’t have transportation or get sick before I can return?

MG: The law is clear: You have two business days to return to the election commission office after Election Day with an acceptable photo ID. If you don’t return within two business days, your provisional ballot will be rejected.

AARP: What do I do if I’m not sure whether my photo ID is acceptable?

MG: If you have any questions about the law, contact the Tennessee Division of Elections at 1-877-850-4959.

(AARP is hosting Q&A sessions in five cities across the state Oct. 18-26. To learn more about them and register for the session near you, call 1-877-926-8300 and ask about AARP University.)

(Shelley Courington is AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director.)

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