The public library’s new photo cards won’t qualify as voter IDs in Thursday’s elections, and the long-term outlook for the voter-photo initiative of Mayor A C Wharton appears in serious jeopardy after a two-hour hearing in a Nashville federal court, reports Richard Locker.
U.S. Dist. Judge Aleta Trauger denied the City of Memphis’ request for an injunction ordering election officials to accept the photo cards as identification under Tennessee’s law requiring most voters to present photo IDs at polling precincts before they can cast ballots.
Although the judge said “there are parts of this act (the state law) that make no sense to the court and it does appear there will be unfair impacts, particular on the elderly,” she said the plaintiffs in the case — the City of Memphis and a Memphis voter — “are not likely to succeed on the merits” in their efforts to allow the library-issued cards to qualify.
One of the provisions of the voter-photo statute passed by the new Republican majority in the Tennessee legislature last year that Trauger and even attorneys for the state agreed “makes no sense” allows long-expired hunting licenses or other photo ID issued by any other state to qualify for Tennessee voting — but not photo IDs issued by Tennessee cities or counties.
“I certainly do hope the legislature revisits this act because to the court, it is nonsensical that someone who holds an expired hunting license from another state and someone who has a photo ID from the library” are treated differently when it comes to voting, Trauger said.
Note: Statements on the judge’s decision below.
News release from Secretary of State’s Office:
“We are pleased with Judge Trauger’s ruling, which we know upholds the intent of the state legislature to only allow federally- or state-issued photo identification for the purpose of verifying voters’ identities,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “As we have consistently stated, the legislature clearly intended that only state or federal photo IDs can be used, which prevents us from accepting county or city IDs. Our Division of Elections remains ready to assist any voter with questions about how they may obtain a free photo ID for voting from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.”
The net effect of the judge’s decision is that the City of Memphis library cards will not be accepted at the polls Thursday as valid state photo ID for voting purposes. The plaintiffs argued a library card with a photo issued by the City of Memphis library was a state photo ID.
A voter who does not present a state- or federally-issued photo ID at the polls will not be turned away, but will receive a provisional ballot. However, the voter will need to return to the local election commission office within two business days after the election and present a state- or federally-issued photo ID in order for the provisional ballot to be counted.
Examples of acceptable forms of ID, whether current or expired, include driver licenses, U.S. passports, Department of Safety photo ID cards, U.S. military photo IDs and other state or federal government photo ID cards. College student IDs are not acceptable.
For more information, please visit www.GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN) — “I am very pleased that the Judge has affirmed the law as
passed by the General Assembly. We considered alternative means, but after
reviewing the process decided that the safeguards were not in place to ensure
the integrity of the ballot like state- and federal-issued identification. Our
right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms. Requiring a
photo ID to vote will help maintain the integrity of elections in our state.
This decision supports that effort.”