Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey lets fly on "vote suppression"
During a recent stop on my Red Tape Road Trip, a member of the audience couldn't fathom why it was so hard for certain people to understand why we need voters to supply a photo ID at the polls.
His question seemed to imply that a large swath of the populous opposes photo ID. Let me assure you -- nothing could be further from the truth. By almost every measure a politician has to gauge the electorate, the recent photo ID law passed by our Republican majority is wildly popular. Be it polling, emails, phone calls or simply constituents stopping us on the street -- support for the measure is strong. Not only do voters agree with the policy when asked, it is one the the few issues on which people I encounter will volunteer their favorable opinion.
So who opposes photo ID? As is often the case these days, the opposition amounts to just a few leaders in the upper echelon of the Democrat Party and their friends in the press.
If you read the slanted news stories and editorials of the mainstream media, you would think that asking voters to present a photo ID at the polls is literally the end of the world as we know it. They believe that photo ID is an attempt to "suppress" the Democrat vote in Tennessee. With all due respect, their candidates seem to have done a pretty good job of suppressing their vote themselves in 2010 when they lost the governor mansion, fifteen seats in the legislature and three congressional seats.
But I digress. Let's look at that word "suppression." It means to "prevent the development of an action or expression of an idea or feeling." The photo ID law suppresses nothing other than voter fraud. We expect in a modern republic such as ours to have faith in the integrity of our electoral process. It is actually a quite unique situation we have in America. Not only do we have the right to vote - a rarity around the globe - we have an expectation that our elections are not a farce. We expect our vote to count. But how can our vote truly count if we don't really know who is and isn't voting?
That is the purpose of photo ID. This is not about suppression, it is about protection. If a qualified voter has his vote canceled out by one unqualified voter, tell me who has been disenfranchised? Whose vote has been suppressed?
The ever-dwindling Democrat political machine in this state would have you believe that there are scores of currently registered voters without voter ID who will be disenfranchised under this bill. They have even resorted to creating false numbers to bolster their case. Democrats say that 675,000 voting Tennesseans currently lack an photo ID. That number is rubbish. Pulled from thin air.
When challenged, they admit their calculations are based on census numbers which contain the very ineligible people this law is designed to exclude: felons, illegal aliens and even convicts sitting on death row. Yet, in press releases, speeches and opinion columns they continue to cite the Department of Safety as their source. I have talked with Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. No such number has ever been issued by his office.
That is what we are dealing with here: a small, vocal, unscrupulous opposition who believe they are entitled to their own set of facts, their own reality.
Fortunately for Tennessee, their reality does not exist. No Tennessee voter is being disenfranchised by this legislation - not one. Voters who are residents of a licensed nursing home who vote at the facility are exempt. Voters who are hospitalized are exempt. Voters with a religious objection to being photographed are exempt. And any registered voter who wants to can vote by mail and does not have to present a photo ID.
But most people do like to vote in person so let me be clear: No one will be turned away at the polls on election day. They will either vote on a machine or cast a provisional ballot which will be counted when proof of identification is presented.
While the opposition throws out terms like "poll tax" remember this: Any registered voter may get an ID at no charge. Free. There is no poll tax.
The only way voters will be disenfranchised is if the purveyors of misinformation succeed. We shall not let them. The AARP of Tennessee has joined with State Election Coordinator Mark Goins to educate the public on exactly what this law means and what it does not. On November 1, the Secretary of State will hold outreach events in all 95 counties to inform and educate citizens on this new law. Your state is working hard to make sure that every qualified voter knows the law and receives an ID if they want one.
In fact, just this week a wonderful woman unable to drive herself was referred to my office by Congressman Jim Cooper. Though his office was unable to help this constituent, Congressman Cooper's staff suggested she call me. A person from my office took this lovely lady downtown to use the Express Station right across from Legislative Plaza. She successfully procured her ID in minutes and now has an ID she can use not only at the polls but for many everyday activities which require a photo ID.
Clearly, the only suppression going on here is that of the truth by the opposition.
Unified Republican government has no interest in suppressing the vote. We wish only for the integrity of our democracy to be unimpeachable. The legislature, the Department of Safety and the Secretary of State are doing everything we can to make it so.
Tennessee deserves better than fear-mongering and demagoguing from frustrated Democrats and ill-informed editorial boards. We want Tennesseans to have a system they believe in and one they can trust. If you have any questions about the law or what is required to vote please call 1-877-850-4959 or log on to http://govotetn.com. Every Tennessean deserves the right to vote and every Tennessean has the right to have that vote mean something..