Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds State’s Voter-ID Law

by Sterling Beard

Tennesse’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s 2011 voter-ID law yesterday, holding that lawmakers had the authority to guard against fraud at the polls.

As the Tennessean reports, the unanimous ruling went against the city of Memphis and two voters from Shelby County who argued that the requirement placed an undue burden on groups who are more likely not to possess driver’s licenses, such as the elderly and the poor.

The justices ruled that the law was not an undue burden, citing the myriad ways to obtain valid forms of ID available to the groups allegedly harmed by the law. Though Chief Justice Gary R. Wade noted that there had been no documented instances of people impersonating voters to commit fraud, there had been cases of such activity elsewhere.

The suit, City of Memphis v. Hargett, came about when the city began to issue library cards with photos for voters’ use at the polls. The state coordinator of elections, Mark Goins, determined that the cards were not valid because they hadn’t been issued by a state or federal agency. That didn’t stop two voters, Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell, from presenting them when they attempted to vote last year in the August primary; they were turned away by poll workers.

An earlier federal case on the matter went against Turner-Golden, as well, at which point the voters, along with the city of Memphis, sued in Davidson County. They lost in Chancery Court, then lost in the Court of Appeals—though the latter said that library cards should be viable as a form of voter ID. The ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court didn’t tackle whether or not the library cards ought to be allowed as ID, noting that the state legislature banned them last spring. 

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