Supreme Court OKs Memphis Library Cards for Voting (temporarily, anyhow)

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday ordered election officials to accept Memphis’ library photo identification cards for voting purposes through the Nov. 6 general election if the voter is otherwise properly registered, reports Richard Locker.
And the Shelby County Election Commission has already ordered its polling staff to comply immediately, said chairman Robert Meyers.
“The instructions are to accept as valid the Memphis photo library cards, which means those voters that present with a Memphis library photo ID would then be allowed to vote on the machines,” Meyers said. “And any voter who has cast a provisional paper ballot with a Memphis photo library ID would not need to do anythin additional (for their vote to be counted).”
The election commission said that through Wednesday’s voting, only 19 people had been forced to cast provisional paper ballots because of issues relating to photo ID, including but not limited to those with Memphis library photo IDs. That’s out of more than 190,000 people attempting to vote so far, or 0.01 percent.
The state’s high court decided to accept the state’s request for permission to appeal last week’s state Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee’s voter photo ID law. But the ruling also ruled that the city-issued library photo ID cards are acceptable for voting by properly registered voters. The state, which opposes the city-issued cards, appealed that provision of the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Under the provisions of the appeal process the state used, the Court of Appeals’ order would normally be stayed, or delayed, until the appeal is decided. “However, the right to vote has profound constitutional significance,” the Supreme Court order issued Thursday morning said.
“In light of the impending general election on November 6, 2012, the Court has determined that the stay should be lifted for the limited purpose of ordering the defendants (Secretary of State) Tre Hargett and (State Election Coordinator) Mark Goins to immediately advise the Shelby County Election Commission to accept, for the November 6, 2012 general election and until otherwise ordered by this Court, the photo library cards issued by the City of Memphis Public Library as acceptable ‘evidence of identification’ as provided in” the state voter photo ID law.
After the Court of Appeals ruling last week, state election officials told the Shelby County Election Commission to allow registered voters who present the library photo cards to vote on paper provisional ballots but not regular touch-screen voting machines. State officials said that if the Court of Appeals ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court — or if the voters presented proper photo ID identified in the state statute within by two days after the Nov. 6 election — the provisional ballots would be counted. But if the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and determined that the library cards were not accepted, the provisional ballots would not be counted unless the voter presented acceptable photo ID by Nov. 8.

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