Is a Fee a Tax?

Let’s talk about HB0010 just for a second.  Maggart & Lynn are sponsoring it.  The wording is such:

Election Laws – As introduced, requires identification and proof of citizenship for voter registration; requires a voter to present qualified photographic identification before voting; voters without proper identification shall be allowed to cast provisional ballots. – Amends TCA Title 2, Chapter 2 and Title 2, Chapter 7.

I direct your attention to the parts I’ve bolded and ask your opinion on this.  So far, the “qualified photographic identification” seems to be either a state-issued driver’s license or a state ID.  Both of which cost money to obtain.  So, if you want to vote, you have to procure AND PAY FOR a photo ID issued by the state.  I’ll say it again–you have to pay the state for an ID in order to vote.  How does that not come into direct conflict with the 24th Amendment?

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

Are the state legislators now not considering a fee (for the license) a tax?  It’s money collected by the state which you have to give the state in order to vote.

I’m no lawyer, but it seems like the very first election after this bill is passed ends us up in Federal Court.  That seems imminently foreseeable.  And fighting federal court cases costs money.

And aren’t we having a budget crisis?

19 thoughts on “Is a Fee a Tax?

  1. You should read the whole legislation before you comment. It provides for free photo IDs for people who can’t afford them. Thus, it ain’t a poll tax.

    Legislation link is

    Relevant section:
    SECTION 8.
    (a) If a voter does not have any of the identification described in § 2-7-112(c) and is unable to afford a valid identification card issued pursuant to § 55-50-336, such identification card shall be issued to the voter upon the voter’s signing a pauper’s oath.

    (b) At the time a person files an application with the department of safety to obtain such card for the purposes described in subsection (a), the applicant shall file an
    accompanying affidavit of indigency in order to have any fees waived for such identification card

  2. Here is the key Supreme Court case:

    More than 20 states have passed voter ID laws. Those opposing the Indiana statute argued that voter ID laws impose an undue burden and disenfranchise some voters. They argued that even though Indiana offers free photo ID to qualified voters, the documents needed to obtain an ID—such as a birth certificate—could require payment or be an inconvenience.

    Justice John Paul Stevens, in the leading opinion, stated that these burdens are limited to a small percentage of population and offset by the burden of reducing fraud. Stevens wrote in the majority:

    The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483[2]. Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.

  3. It is a poll tax unless a “fee” is not a “tax.” I don’t see how exempting people from the tax gets you around the problem of taxing people if they want to vote.

  4. There’s a provision in the legislation that provides would-be voters with free identification – that’s what “Read the Whole Thing” said… It’s also present in SB0003 – Beaver’s bill, which deals with the same thing.

  5. This is my first reading of this, but it seems to me that it clearly states that they are free, so long as you file the forms that say “you’s PO”.

    We had the same thing in GA for years, but I think, as of the last round, it’s still in place. In fact, I remember having to show ID when I voted last.

  6. I fought the Indiana law long and hard in high school and college. What it comes down to is that the government is adamant about being entrenched.

    The way around the law is that if you are poor they’ll give ya a free id. But then you have to go through all these steps to prove you can’t afford the ID. Which they assume many poor people will be unable or unwilling to do. So therefore it means that poor people just don’t get to vote.

    Republicans don’t usually mind. Democrats, on the other hand, do.

  7. Just to clarify, the Indiana laws I fought were about IDs having to have pictures on them. As I see it, any thing that certifies you being you should be enough (ie. a birth certificate or ss card, neither of which requires a photo.)

  8. Indiana’s licenses aren’t free either. They have a free “id for voting purposes” card, but it isn’t a operator’s license. I’m not clear on how this brainstorm is a great advance on what HAVA already does. (And remember, there’s always recourse to a provisional ballot if you don’t have/produce id…so in other words, this is a strongly suggested course of action, but we’ll let you get away with not doing it because otherwise we’d have our pants sued off…)

    Hooray for Tennessee! Another law that duplicates something already taken care of through a federal statute! Another revenue stream down the shitter!

  9. Not to mention the fact that “free ID if you’re poor” doesn’t exactly circumvent the 24th amendment in my opinion. The right to vote without paying a poll tax isn’t guaranteed to only poor citizens.

    Further, I’d say >15% of the people I knew in high school (these are high school students!!) had a fake (photo) id. How exactly does this legislation propose to reduce fraud?

  10. It doesn’t matter that by signing a paupers oath, a citizen can get the free id card which is required to vote.

    Read the Constitution. NO citizen should be denied the right to vote based on paying a tax. If a person with the means to pay for an ID was denied receiving a free ID and therefore was denied the right to vote under the proposed law, the law would be unconstitutional.

    The net worth of a citizen has nothing whatsoever to do with this.

  11. This is so simple that the argument seems silly. Anyone who does not own a driver’s license should be able to get a free ID card issued by the state. Or, simply include photos on the current Voter Registration card that is issued and free now. Either way works. The goal is to add additional safeguards to the voting public that each person will have ONLY one vote BUT THAT each person WILL have one vote, without having to pay for it.

  12. “go through all these steps” = say you can’t afford an ID and sign an oath.

    Yep… that’s really difficult.

    It doesn’t matter how difficult it is or isn’t. What matters is how necessary it is or isn’t and how constitutional it is or isn’t.

    I personally think it is neither necessary nor constitutional. Adding loopholes and red tape is just polishing the turd that is this stupid foray into limiting the movements of free people.

  13. Not every county in Tennessee even has a Drivers license testing station. Lots of senior citizens in Tennessee still do not have a photo DL. That law will make it tough on plenty of seniors and poor people, 88 year old Justice Stevens should know better.

    I guess everything’s ok as long as we don’t allow gay marriage.

  14. I agree with Coble. Plus, voting fraud so rarely involves people showing up claiming to be other people and then voting as them that this seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Making me show you my driver’s license doesn’t prevent a determined poll worker from “losing” the memory chip with my vote on it. It doesn’t prevent people from taking bags of paper ballots home and hiding them in a closet. It doesn’t prevent hackers from flipping electronic votes.

    All it does is make it seem like voter fraud is committed mostly by voters and not by whatever party is in control of that particular election.

  15. What matters is how necessary it is or isn’t and how constitutional it is or isn’t.

    Exactly. Personally, I don’t have strong emotions over photo IDs for voting (sorry, I just don’t). I do however think that before even trying to pass constitutionally questionable legislation, we need to have strong evidence of a problem and strong evidence that said legislation will effectively solve the problem. We have neither in this case.

  16. B., you hit the nail on the head here:

    …voting fraud so rarely involves people showing up claiming to be other people and then voting as them that this seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

    If you do an examination of every single campaign to push for voter ID laws, I guarantee you’ll find the overwhelming majority of them have been run by GOP-friendly operatives.

    The GOP knows that ballot box stuffing and individuals voting more than once are such rare occurrences as to be completely irrelevant. (Hence the staggering dishonesty in John Paul Stevens’ opinion.) But what the GOP also knows is that their policies tend to be unpopular with a majority of U.S. citizens– primarily minorities and poor people, two demographics which have substantial overlap– so they will do everything they can to keep as many minorities and poor people as they can from voting. Hell, when it all boils down, they’ll settle for low voter turnout overall. If you want a timely example, look at the senatorial recount in Minnesota. The Republican candidate has done everything he can to stop the recount, while the Democrat has fought to keep it going. It is easy to suggest that this is simply because the initial count favored the Republican, but if Norm Coleman were so confident that most Minnesota voters wanted him back in the Senate, why would he be so desperate to stop short of every vote being counted?

    Paul Weyrich knows why.

    The other machinations you describe, B., are the real voter fraud, and these tactics are among a host of things that GOP operatives have used to try and tilt things their way. I think it worth reiterating that Justice Stevens laid down a nugget of rhetorical bullshit that for sheer serpentine audacity rivals that of Bush v. Gore or Scott v. Sandford. The voter fraud that these measures aim to stop is virtually nonexistent, and the relative burden caused by the measures is not as relevant as the measures’ constitutional repugnance.

  17. This seems absurd to me. You can register to vote by mail without any proof of identity whatsoever. You are then issued a voter registration card by the local election comission that indicates who you are and where you are to vote based on the information submitted by mail by you.

    After registering by mail, the first time you go to vote, you are also required to present an acceptable form of ID. And what does that include? Photo id’s of course, but the list also includes as acceptable that same voter registration card that was issued based on your mailed-in application. ( Link

    If I so desired, I could send in forms as Jim and also send in forms as my seven other brothers, Joe, John, Jack, Jeff, Jeremiah, etc., all living at the same address. I would risk one of the little ladies at the polls recognizing me, but if I early vote, there’s almost no risk anyone would notice me coming in eight times over the course of a month as long as I keep the voter registration cards straight.

    Adding a photo requirement would legally be considered a poll tax in a court case, probably even if they were to be provided free of charge to everyone, but if I’m willing to pay the cost of a photo ID, there’s still nothing to keep me from having eight of the suckers either. It’s just a matter of taking the time and doing it.

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