NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new law requiring Tennessee residents 60 years of age or older to have a photo on their driver's license is among those that take effect on Tuesday, though its sponsor says those who don't already have them won't be required to go get them.
Sen. Jim Tracy, the legislation's sponsor, said for some reason those individuals were exempted when the law was passed years ago requiring photos on driver's licenses.
"We went back and researched the law and could not find a reason why they were exempted, so we decided to close the gap and make it the same for everyone," said the Shelbyville Republican.
He said those seniors who don't have a photo on their license before Tuesday won't be required to get one.
"They can keep it the same; we didn't want to inconvenience them," Tracy said.
However, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said the new requirement does pose an inconvenience to seniors with mobility issues, or those in rural areas, who may be unable to get to the proper location to make the change.
Kyle said they were exempted when the measure requiring photos on driver's licenses first passed because the legislation was aimed at preventing teenagers from using fake identification to purchase alcohol.
"That's what drove that issue," he said. "Someone who is 60 years old is not going to look younger than 21 in order to purchase alcohol."
Mary Mancini of Tennessee Citizen Action said such legislation could end up affecting a person's voting rights, and she cited as an example the law that requires voters to have photo identification in order to vote.
Mancini, who helped organize a coalition of poll watchers during the general election in November, said some voters were disenfranchised because of the photo ID law and she fears the new driver's license law could do the same. It's not clear exactly how many people over 60 it would impact, but state officials have said there were about 230,000 registered voters over age 60 that had licenses without photos when the photo ID law took effect last January.
Since then, more than 23,000 people over 60 who had a non-photo driver's license got it converted to one with a photo in order to vote, according to the state Safety Department.
"It puts an impediment in front of the vote, no matter what the scenarios are," Mancini said. "There's always going to be someone affected negatively by this."
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