Students at public universities still won't be able to use their school-issued ID to vote after the state Senate on Thursday voted to remove a provision allowing their use from a new voter identification bill.
By agreeing 23-7 with an identical version of the bill passed in the state House, senators sent the legislation, which now allows faculty and graduate assistants to use their college-issued ID to cast a ballot and bans voters from using state-issued library cards, to Gov. Bill Haslam for approval.
Sen. Bill Ketron, the Murfreesboro Republican who sponsored the Senate version, said he supported allowing students to use their school-issued card, not because of the policy's merits, but to ensure the current photo ID policy was constitutionally sound and mirrored what was considered legal in other states with similar policies.
The Senate agreed, at least at first, voting for the legislation that included the college ID provision in March.
When he saw the House vote to strip those provisions, though, Ketron knew he didn't have the support in the Senate to keep his version in place.
"I think you saw the temperature of the chamber and how the votes turned out," he said. "I knew that's the way it was going to go."
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters Thursday that the majority of senators never wanted to consider student IDs as valid identification because they could be replicated.
"We simply did it because it helped our case in court if it ever got challenged again," Ramsey said. "But after talking to the attorney general and the assistant attorney general, they thought they could defend it, so that's the reason we went with the House bill."
Before the Senate voted on the legislation, Sen. Jim Kyle, the Democratic minority leader, blasted the decision of the body to prevent students already registered to vote from doing so.
"Quite frankly, we should go further and give citizens the opportunity to use any valid form of government-issued photo ID," said the Memphis Democrat. "But we're not going to go there because the Senate doesn't want to."
Mary Mancini, who has fought the photo ID regulations in general since lawmakers passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote in 2010, said that since changes continually have been required, the entire policy's effectiveness should be questioned.
"When you start adding exceptions to this, it keeps showing how unfair it is," she said.
After Thursday's Senate session, Ketron said he expected to bring up college ID legislation again next year.