Two bills before the Tennessee legislature would reduce the harmful effects of the state’s strict voter ID law, but the reforms do not apply to students. The proposed measures include allowing a state worker to continue to use a state employee ID after retirement and the addition of photos to driver’s licenses for individuals older than 60.
However, there appears to be no relief in sight for the state’s students. Student IDs are explicitly excluded from the list of acceptable voter IDs under Tennessee law: “An identification card issued to a student by an institution of higher education containing a photograph of a student shall not be evidence of identification for purposes of verifying the person’s identification on the application for ballot.”
The legislative snub defies logic because the legislature does not appear to be concerned that there is something about colleges and universities that make their IDs suspicious. In fact, Tennessee’s government website states that employee IDs that state colleges and universities issue are acceptable.
Tennessee’s hostility to students is a familiar theme in the battle over voting rights that has been waged since the beginning of last year. These are just a few examples.
- New Hampshire: The House of Representatives passed a bill that would radically redefine voting domicile to make it more difficult for students to vote in their college communities. New Hampshire’s House Speaker justified rules to make it harder for students to vote by arguing that young people “don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings.”
- Maine: Secretary of State Charlie Webster sent intimidating letters to Maine college students who came to Maine from other states. The letters falsely implied that the students were breaking the law by registering to vote in Maine.
- Texas: The voter ID law that was recently denied preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice included a provision allowing Texans to vote using a concealed handgun permit, but did not allow the use of student IDs.