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November 29, 2011

Public forum explains TN voter photo ID law

Gene Lewis emphasizes the importance of people understanding the law's requirements

Approximately thirty-five people attended the November 28 public forum on the Tennessee Voter Photo ID Law held at the Clarksville-Montgomery County  Public Library. The forum, presented by the Tennessee Urban Resource Center, featured state Senator Tim Barnes and Montgomery County Elections Commissioner Vicki Koelman. Pat Allen and Wayne Oldham of the Montgomery County Republic Party and Gene Lewis of the Montgomery County Democratic Party also served on the panel, fielding questions from the audience.

The new law, effective January 1, 2012, requires voters to present a federal or state government issued form of ID to vote. Provisions for exemptions to the photo ID requirement include registered voters residing in nursing homes or assisted living facilities who vote by absentee ballot, indigent persons, persons who have a religious objection to being photographed, and senior citizens over the age of 65 with driver’s licenses without their photos on them.

Among public officials attending were county commissioners Tommy Vallejos and Ron Sokol, city council representatives Joel Wallace and Nick Stewart and CMC School Board Chair Jimmy Garland.

Montgomery County Elections Commissioner Vicki Koelman explains the law

Director Coleman gave a presentation that explained the requirements of the law and how voters can satisfy those requirements. Voters will be required to present some form of federal or state government issued photo ID to cast their ballot. Various forms of such ID are acceptable, such as a driver’s license from any state that has a photo. The driver’s license does not have to be current. Additionally, a U.S. passport, Department of Safety photo ID, or a photo ID issued by the federal or state government, such as an employee ID. A military ID card is also acceptable as well as a Veterans Affairs ID card or a state issued handgun carry permit ID card.

Sample photo ID

Voters without a photo ID may obtain a free photo ID to vote from the Department of Safety at any of the 47 participating driver service centers across the state. (Tennessee has 95 counties and a total of 48 driver service centers.) Voters will need proof of citizenship – such as a birth certificate – and two proofs of Tennessee residency (such as a copy of a utility bill, vehicle registration/title, bank statement or voter registration card.) Voters will have to pay any applicable fee for a copy of their birth certificate or other documents.

Some voters do not have a photo on their driver’s license and no other form of valid photo ID. For these voters, the Department of Safety will reissue the driver license with their photo for free upon request.

Department of Safety Driver Service Centers are now open on the first Saturday of each month for voter photo ID processing only. This service will be available each month through March 2012, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Clarksville center is located at 220 West Dunbar Cave Road.

If the voter does not have acceptable ID at the voting precinct, they will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot which will be held in suspense for two working days following the election day. These voters will have to bring acceptable photo ID to the election commission within two working days of the election to have their votes counted.

For more information, or to request a group presentation, contact the Montgomery County Election Commission, 350 Pageant Lane, Suite 404 (Veterans Plaza), Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. Call (931) 648-5707 or visit their website at

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