As part of an ongoing effort to inform voters about a new law that will require them to show valid photo identification at the polls, election officials in all 95 Tennessee counties will be hosting outreach programs Nov. 1.
The local meeting is scheduled for 7:00 tonight at the Woodbury Grammar School Gym.
State election officials believe this is the first time in Tennessee history voter outreach programs have been conducted in all 95 counties on the same day.
The formats may vary from county to county, but most are hosting town hall meetings where citizens can ask questions about the new law.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires people to show a valid state or federal government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Examples of acceptable forms of ID include driver licenses, U.S. passports, Department of Safety photo ID cards, U.S. military photo IDs and state or federal government photo ID cards. College student IDs are not acceptable.
There are a number of safeguards in the law to ensure eligible voters are not disenfranchised. The photo ID requirement does not apply to:
• People who vote absentee by mail
• People who vote in licensed nursing homes or assisted living facilities
• People who are hospitalized
• People who have religious objections to being photographed
• People who are indigent and cannot obtain photo IDs without paying fees
Voters who forget to bring photo identification to the polls may cast provisional ballots and return to their local election offices with proof of their identities within two business days after elections.
“I commend our election commissions and administrators of elections for working hard to spread the word about this new law,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been done before. This outreach campaign is massive and certain to reach a tremendous number of voters.”
For more information about the new law, contact the state Division of Elections at 1-877-850-4959 or your local election commission office.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security announced Monday that as of October 24 it had issued 2,385 forms of photo identification for voting purposes since a new law went into effect making on July 1 photo IDs for voting purposes available at no charge.
The number of photo IDs issued for voting purposes includes original photo identification cards (for voters who had never been issued a driver license or photo ID and were not already in the Department’s database) and non-photo driver licenses converted into photo driver licenses. (Drivers in Tennessee age 60 and older may opt to carry a non-photo driver license.)
“In the last several weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of voters obtaining photo IDs from the department. I urge any voter who needs a photo ID to obtain one from the department without charge,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
As of October 2, 2011, there are 4,341,325 Tennesseans age 18 and older who have valid photo IDs issued by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. There are 4,150,645 with valid photo driver licenses and 188,196 with valid state photo IDs issued by the department. Additionally, there are also 2,484 Tennesseans with photo handgun carry permits who do not possess a Tennessee photo driver license or state photo ID. The Department is unable to determine the number of Tennesseans who are of voting age with no form of photo ID.
For citizens who need a photo ID for voting purposes, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will open 19 driver service centers on the first Saturday of each month starting on November 5 for the purpose of issuing voter photo IDs only. The centers will be open normal business hours, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Driver service centers will be open on the first Saturday of each month in the following counties: Davidson (Centennial Blvd. and Hart Lane), Hamilton (both locations), Knox (both locations), Shelby (East Shelby Drive and Summer Avenue), Sullivan, Sumner, Rutherford, Washington, Williamson, Montgomery, Blount, Bradley, Putnam, Greene, and Carter.
To minimize the possibility of wait times during Saturday hours, groups or organizations planning to make a group visit to a driver service center should schedule an appointment by calling Linda Cone at 731-225-0924 or Wanda Adams at 615-251-5300.
In addition, 30 county clerks’ offices across the state are converting non-photo driver licenses to photo driver licenses for voters who need them free of charge.