When I went to the polls Tuesday to vote in Madison's school board election, the nice ladies working the election table asked to see my photo ID. As usual, I declined and asked to fill out the affidavit instead. There are lots of letters in Heidelberger and Cottonwood Cove Trail, so it takes me ten times longer to fill out that form than it would to flash my driver's license. But that time allowed the ladies and me to swap stories... for which there was plenty of time, since only 15.1% of my neighbors were trickling through the city armory to vote that fine sunny day.

Neighborly chat isn't the only reason I fill out the affidavit. Some lingering libertarianism makes me balk at showing a photo ID to do anything. If I can avoid any "Papers, please!" request, I will. When it comes to elections, the best defense against voter fraud is not some top-down techno-ID scheme, but nice neighbor ladies who can look at a 1000-plus voter list and say, "I know these folks, these two are dead, and you ain't them."

The Tennessee attorney general provides on more reason for me not to show my ID at the polls: it's unconstitutional. AG Robert Cooper issued an opinion this week that requiring individuals to produce a photo ID as a condition of voting is essentially a poll tax, requiring citizens to spend money to vote, at least unless the state provides free photo IDs. Otherwise, drivers license, student ID... if they're tied to fees, you can't make them a condition of exercising the right to vote.

Nonetheless, the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives voted 57&ndash35 yesterday to pass just such an unconstitutional voter ID requirement. Bill sponsor Rep. Debra Maggert says she's working on a funding mechanism for free photo IDs in other legislation, but I say if you float a bill, it had better be constitutional on its own before anyone votes to pass it. Funny that Rep. Maggert, a Tea Party fave for challenging the constitutionality of health care reform, wouldn't follow that reasoning on voting rights.

Our neighbors in Minnesota are considering a similar bill, even though similar bills have been ruled unconstitutional by courts in Georgia, Missouri, and New Mexico. Alas, the Minnesota and Tennessee legislatures seem to have the same problem as South Dakota's Legislature and the U.S. Congress, using the Constitution as a rhetorical cloak of convenience and focusing on anything but jobs.