DRIVER SERVICE CENTERS
• Hamilton County
6502 Bonny Oaks Drive, Chattanooga
4873 Dayton Blvd., Red Bank
• Bradley County
301 James Asbury Drive NW, Cleveland
NASHVILLE -- Tennessee issued 12,571 photo IDs for voters between July 1 and Jan. 30, the state Safety Department announced Thursday.
Under a Republican-backed law that took effect Jan. 1, all Tennessee voters must display state or federally issued photo identification to vote.
Republicans say the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats and other critics charge the measure is part of a national movement by the GOP and its allies to discourage the elderly, minorities and students from voting.
Democrats have introduced legislation in the General Assembly this year to gut the law.
Some Republicans have introduced bills to address aspects of the law. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has a bill that would add a photo ID issued by city and county governments to the list of acceptable identification.
Safety Department officials say 11,986 of the IDs issued by state Driver Service Centers were nonphoto driver's licenses converted into photo driver's licenses.
Under current state law, drivers 60 and older aren't required to have photos on their license. They account for 10 percent of the estimated 126,000 Tennesseans with nonphoto licenses.
Another 675 people were issued original photo identification cards.
The law requires the state to issue photo IDs for voting purposes at no charge.
The Safety Department has been opening select Driver Service Centers on the first Saturday of each month to accommodate seniors.
"We will only offer Saturday hours for the selected Driver Service Centers twice more before the presidential primary in March," state Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a news release. "Citizens who need a photo ID for voting purposes are encouraged to utilize this special service, as well as our participating county clerk partners during the week."
On Saturday, the state will open 19 Driver Service Centers specifically for IDs. The final Saturday will be March 3, just days before the March 6 presidential primary.
Both Driver Service Centers in Hamilton County will be open, as well as the center in Bradley County from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those seeking photo ID can go during the week, as well.
The Safety Department says that to "minimize the possibility of wait times during Saturday hours," groups or organizations planning to take voters to service centers should schedule an appointment by calling Linda Cone at 731-225-0924 or Wanda Adams at 615-251-5300.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...