NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The senator who sponsored a measure to let people show student IDs to cast ballots realized it didn’t have enough votes to pass, so he instead backed a bill that doesn’t allow them to be used.
Murfreesboro Republican Sen. Bill Ketron decided Thursday, April 4, to concur with the House version that wouldn’t allow the student IDs and the full Senate voted 23-7 in support. The measure is now headed to the governor for his consideration.
“We saw the vote over there,” said Ketron, referring to the House vote. “That wind came strong, and I knew that’s where it was going. Members were agreeing with the House. They were urging me to concur.”
Ketron had said including the student IDs issued by state colleges and universities would bring Tennessee into line with an Indiana law that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said he may try again next year to pass that version.
“I think we need to leave the door open,” he said.
Nevertheless, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey later told reporters that he’s talked to the state’s attorney general who believes the legislation that passed is defensible.
“He was here today and we asked him about this in particular,” said the Blountville Republican. “The bottom line is that all of us to begin with did not want student IDs included, we simply did it because it helped our case in court if it even got challenged again. But after talking to the attorney general and the assistant attorney general, they thought they could defend it, so that’s the reason we went with the House bill.”
The version that passed Thursday would eliminate library cards as valid voter ID.
The city of Memphis and two residents sued the state last year after election officials refused to accept a city-issued library card with a photo as voter identification.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld the state voter ID law as constitutional but also allowed Memphis residents to use the library card as identification to vote. The Supreme Court said last year that the library card could be used while the court was considering the case.
That case is still pending before the state’s highest court.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis tried unsuccessfully earlier this session to amend Ketron’s bill to allow counties to decide if their libraries can be used to obtain photo identification to vote.
He said not allowing students to use their IDs to vote is an “absolute shame.”
“Every citizen has to have met the qualifications to register to vote, and to have registered to vote,” Kyle said. “All the photo ID does is validate that you are the person who registered to vote.”