(NASHVILLE, TN), October 31, 2011 -- Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said today that numbers provided by the Senate Democrat Caucus count illegal aliens and prisoners who have lost their voting rights among the number of what they term as possible “disenfranchised” voters under Tennessee’s new photo ID law. The formula, which Democrats released to certain media outlets last week, uses the 2010 U.S. Census to estimate how many voters do not have a photo ID.
“The census is a count of everyone residing in the United States,” says Census information posted on the U.S. Census website. “So even if you are not a U.S. citizen but you live and sleep in the U.S. most of the year, you will be counted in the census.” In addition, the Census count includes foreign students and those who are incarcerated in correctional facilities and who may have lost their voting rights if convicted of certain crimes.
Utilizing the Census as their source, the Democratic Caucus formula claimed that Tennessee has 689,301 people of voting age who don't have a driver's license or photo on their driver's license.
“The whole reason for the law was to ensure that only eligible citizens vote in an election in Tennessee,” said Chairman Ketron. “We had tried to determine the criteria the Democrats used to make that their calculation. We knew the number was wrong but until we saw their data did not know that they included ineligible voters and others who already have authorized identification cards until it was released to the media. Now we understand why the statistics were so grossly out of line.”
“We don’t know whether their calculations are designed to sensationalize the number of people who may truly need photo identification or if they believe we should really open up our election process to illegal aliens. I would hope not -- but both of these scenarios are concerning in protecting the integrity of elections in Tennessee. ”
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are over 140,000 illegal aliens in Tennessee.
Senator Ketron said the formula devised by Democrats also did not take into consideration those voters who had other forms of voter identification which would not be considered in a Census count. According to the Tennesee Division of Elections, voters can use the following current or expired identification as long as it contains a photo: Tennessee driver’s license, U.S. passport, federal or state government-issued employee identification, U.S. Military ID, Veteran Identification card, and a state-issued handgun carry permit. In addition, the law makes exception for voters who vote absentee by mail, residents of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center who vote at the facility, those who are hospitalized, citizens with a religious objection to being photographed, and voters who are indigent and not able to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee. Those who do not have photo identification will be allowed to vote by using a provisional ballot and given an opportunity to show their identification within two days after the election.
“Nothing in that raw census number tells you whether or not a person has an expired license with a picture on it, a veterans card, or an old passport, all of which are approved identification for voting purposes,” added Ketron. “We want every single eligible voter in Tennessee to be able vote, including those who need photo identification. However, we take exception to the misinformation being distributed by opponents of law.”
“Our election officials are working hard to educate voters regarding the facts of the new voter ID requirement. There are 95 town hall meetings in every county in the state tomorrow. This is in addition to scores of meetings to educate the public that have already taken place. They should be commended for their tremendous efforts. Any statement to the contrary is ludicrous. We will continue to work towards that goal and to ensure that every Tennessee voter’s vote is counted and not suppressed by an ineligible voter who commits fraud,” he concluded.
Census links: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/about/how-we-count.php, (see foreign citizens in the U.S.), http://2010.census.gov/campus/pdf/FAQ_CensusOnCampus.pdf (see Not a U.S. Citizen)
Pew Hispanic Center: http://pewhispanic.org/