by Jeff Woods
Tennessee was one of seven states, including Wisconsin, that enacted photo ID voter laws this year in an obvious attempt to to make it harder for the elderly, the poor and other Democratic constituencies to vote. The ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty brought the lawsuit against Wisconsin's law. Among other claims, they argue requiring photo IDs makes it almost impossible for homeless people to vote, since many of them don't have any ID or any way to get one. People living on the street aren't likely to have birth certificates, Social Security cards or other ways to prove their identities.
"Protecting homeless persons' right to vote is crucial, since voting is one of the few ways that homeless individuals can impact the political process and make their voices heard," said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. "By limiting participation to Wisconsin residents with photo identification, this law effectively silences homeless persons' voices. With homelessness rising by 12 percent in Wisconsin since the recession began, we cannot allow the state to set this dangerous and unconscionable precedent."
In Tennessee, the law's opponents are collecting signatures on petitions calling for its repeal when the legislature reconvenes in January. We're sure they will hold a press conference at some point to show off their piles of petitions. That'll make a nice PR stunt, possibly causing some Republicans a little embarrassment, but it won't have any practical effect. To stop the photo ID law before next year's elections, what Tennessee needs is a lawsuit like Wisconsin's and a federal court injunction.