Secretary of State Tre Hargett said he doesn’t expect a new voter identification law to be a problem in Tennessee in the Nov. 6 election.
It hasn’t been an issue in two other elections in Tennessee this year, Hargett said after a Wednesday morning tour of the Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge.
He said about 300 people didn’t have photo identifications in the March and August elections, but roughly half of them—or 150 voters—later returned to their local election commissions and presented IDs, which allowed their votes to be counted.
Others might have decided not to come back when they saw that their votes would not have made a difference, even if they had been counted.
The new voter ID law went into effect on Jan. 1. It requires voters to show an ID that includes their name and photograph.
Acceptable IDs include a Tennessee driver’s license, state-issued handgun carry permit with a photo, a U.S. passport or military photo ID, a photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, or a photo ID issued by the federal government or any state government.
College student IDs and photo IDs that were not issued by the federal government or a state government are not acceptable.
The nonprofit ProPublica journalism organization reported that 30 states have now enacted voter ID laws in some form. Supporters of the new laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as an attempt to disenfranchise voters, especially the poor, minorities, and elderly residents.
Democrats, in particular, have been critical of some of the changes.
But Hargett characterized the new law in Tennessee as an issue of voter integrity, and not one meant to help Republicans.
“I just want people to vote with confidence,” Hargett said.
Some critics have questioned the need for the new voter ID law in Tennessee, calling it a solution in search of problem.
Hargett disagreed. Thirty-eight people have been convicted of voter fraud in West Tennessee in the last 42 to 48 months, he said.
“There is such a thing as voter fraud,” Hargett said.
Hargett said state officials have reached out to the public, including through media announcements and town hall meetings, to let voters know about the new requirements.
“We’ve done a really good job of outreach across the state,” he said.
Hargett toured Anderson County with Rep. John Ragan on Wednesday, speaking at a government contracting seminar in Oak Ridge in the morning and joining Anderson County commissioners Zach Bates and Tim Isbel at a town hall in Lake City in the afternoon.
He said voters should bring a federal or state-issued ID to the polls on Nov. 6. Voters who don’t have a valid ID can cast a provisional ballot. They then have two business days to return to their local election commission with a valid ID, Hargett said.
“Don’t let them turn you away,” he said.
For more information, visit www.govotetn.com.