Tennessee appeals court upholds voter ID law, says is constitutional

NASHVILLE Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:51am EDT

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NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A Tennessee appeals court ruled on Thursday that a state requirement that voters have photo identification is constitutional but that the Memphis library cards at the heart of a challenge to the law were acceptable at polling places.

The Tennessee Secretary of State plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, a move that will freeze the appeal court ruling until the high court takes action, according to Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Secretary of State.

"This is like changing the rules at halftime of a football game," Fontenay said, explaining the quick reaction to Thursday's ruling, which came as early voting in the November 6 general election was already underway.

"I wouldn't lose sight of the part of the ruling that we are very pleased with that upholds the constitutionality of the law," he added.

The issue of voter ID in Tennessee is just the latest episode in a legal tug of war over photo-identification requirements in the past two years.

Republican governors and state lawmakers across the country say voter ID requirements are necessary to deter fraud, although examples of in-person voter impersonation are rare. Democrats argue the laws are intended to depress turnout among groups that support them.

"Demanding people bring a picture ID card ... is a constitutional impediment," Nashville attorney George Barrett, who challenged the constitutionality of the law, said after a court hearing last month that paved the way for the appellate ruling.

Of the appellate court's decision, Barrett said on Thursday, "We won half of it, and we lost half of it."

He called the ruling a victory for the city of Memphis, but also said "we are considering our options now."

He too may take his cause to the state Supreme Court. "We've got 30 days to decide that. We haven't given up the fight on the unconstitutionality of the statute," he said.

Barrett also said he interprets the court's Thursday ruling to say that it applies statewide and not just to Memphis.

"It makes many more places available for people to get photo IDs other than driver's license issuing stations," he said.

"Less than half of the counties in the state of Tennessee have driver's license issuing stations but every county has a library," Barrett said.

(Editing by Mary Slosson)

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Comments (3)
morbas wrote:
Your Honor, with legal prejudice I post this.
Politics Nation: “July 30: Since 2010, 19 states have enacted laws designed to make it harder to vote, despite little evidence of the voter fraud the laws are supposed to prevent.
There are no cases of voter fraud above 0.001%; (IMHO) instead the Republicans are committing Disenfranchisement Conspiracy against the USA, and facts to this claim are in the testimony of the self buoyant Republicans themselves. The method is variation in the implementation with a common testimony of “making it possible to elect Romney-Ryan”.

Oct 26, 2012 8:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
lemonfemale wrote:
But see, as they say in academic circles,
where a young white man is offered Eric Holder’s ballot. The man leaves without casting Eric Holder’s vote. The problem WE KNOW ABOUT is miniscule. But we are allowed to correct a problem that rarely occurs: think of the TSA. On the other hand, we do not want to make it hard for real voters to votes. Though, arguably, anyone wanting to drive or buy alcohol will manage to get a photo ID, my mother in law had some trouble getting her first- at 88. Allowing library cards as ID appears to mitigate that. I would point out this is a tight election and Obama learned his politics where?

Oct 26, 2012 2:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
The ability to verify the eligibility of every voter is a foundation for any genuine representative democracy. What constitutes a legitimate ID is open for discussion however. A legitimate form of ID must be readily available to all citizens and assure people are who they claim to be. This is fair and common sense. Anyone trying to either not require ID or allow for questionable forms of ID are simply looking for ways to defraud our democracy…pure and simple. We all know that.

Oct 26, 2012 3:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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