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WCEC plans open meetings on Voter ID

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By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
Any questions from local citizens about the new Tennessee Voter ID law will be answered on Tuesday, Nov. 1, by the Wilson County Election Commission in a town hall meeting to help voters ensure they are informed and have all the right documents before they head to the polls next year.

Philip Warren, Wilson County administrator of elections, said the local Election Commission gets calls almost every day about it, but noted most people have expressed positive feelings toward the new law.

In general, people are just concerned about having the right materials to be able to vote, Warren said.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, citizens will be able to ask Warren and the Election Commission about the new law and watch a short video presentation on the facts and details of the law. The meeting will be held at the Election Commission office at 203 East Main Street in Lebanon at noon, and in Mt. Juliet at City Hall located at 2425 North Mt. Juliet Road, also at noon.

The new law, enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year, requires a federal or state-issued photo ID in order to vote. A drivers license is the most common form of photo identification, and Warren said most voters are already used to having that with them when voting.

Its not a big departure from what theyve been doing already, he said.

Warren and the Election Commission have made a concerted effort to inform local citizens about the new law, and the town hall meeting will be a good time for anyone to come in and be sure they have all that is necessary to vote.

A voter registration card is still required and the photo ID is in addition to the registration. Warren said the law provides for several different forms of photo ID to be used by voters. A U.S. Passport, a Department of Safety photo ID, a U.S. Military photo ID or even a state-issued handgun carry permit, are all valid forms of photo ID under the new law.

It was very well thought through by the legislature, Warren said.

A recent statewide poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University, showed that most Tennesseans are aware of the new law, but only about half know the specifics. According to the poll, 71 percent of Tennesseans know of the law.

The poll noted that only 51 percent of individuals 39 years and younger knew of the law. By comparison, 83 percent of individuals 40 and older were aware of the law. Many of those polled did not know which forms of photo ID were acceptable.

Exactly 92 percent of those polled correctly answered that a valid Tennessee drivers license would be an acceptable form of identification at the ballot box. Also, 78 percent correctly identified that a valid U.S. Military photo ID will be acceptable.

Conversely, only 32 percent knew that a valid University of Tennessee student identification card was unacceptable and only 14 percent knew that an expired Tennessee drivers license would be acceptable.

While the meeting will allow anyone a chance to come in and talk to the Commission about the new law, Warren said they are continuing to get the word out about the law in a variety of places.

We do things every week, Im out doing speaking events, and were passing out fliers. We have fliers in senior citizens centers, nursing homes, grocery stores, everywhere, Warren said.

Warren said the Election Commission will continue to help local citizens become informed about the law and help some obtain valid photo identification so they can cast their vote next year.

There are several free options available for those needing to obtain a photo ID.

The next election is the March 6, 2012 Presidential Preference Primary, then the Aug. 2, 2012 Wilson County General and State Elections and Federal Primary and the Nov. 6, 2012 State and Federal General Election.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted by phall@wilsonpost.com.

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