Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Act

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ruling on constitutional challenges to the state’s Voter Identification Act by the City of Memphis and two Shelby County voters, the Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously declined to overturn the act.

The act, which was passed in 2011, requires voters to present government-issued photographic identification in order to cast a ballot in state or federal elections. As originally written, the act authorized several acceptable forms of identification, one of which was a valid photographic identification card issued by an entity of the State of Tennessee. 

In response to the new law, the City of Memphis Public Library began issuing photographic identification cards to its patrons. Shelby County residents Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell attempted to vote in the August 2012 primary using their library cards but were turned away by election officials.

Prior to the 2012 general election, Turner-Golden and Bell, along with the City of Memphis, filed suit, arguing that the photographic identification requirement violated state constitutional protections and that the City of Memphis library cards were valid identification. The trial court denied relief on all counts. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the library cards were acceptable identification under the act, but also concluding that the photographic identification requirement was constitutional. Because early voting for the 2012 general election was underway, the Court of Appeals ordered election officials to accept cards from the Memphis Public Library. The Supreme Court granted review in November of 2012 and ordered election officials to continue to accept cards from the Memphis Public Library during the general election.

On April 23, the General Assembly amended the Voter Identification Act so that cards issued by municipal libraries were specifically excluded as valid identification. Because of the April 2013 amendments, the Supreme Court first ruled that all issues pertaining to the validity of the Memphis Public Library cards were moot. In addition, the Court ruled that the individual plaintiffs, Turner-Golden and Bell, had legal standing to challenge the act, but the City of Memphis, which obviously did not have a vote, did not. Finally, the Court held that the version of the act in effect at the time of the 2012 primary election met constitutional standards, concluding that the legislature has the prerogative to enact laws guarding against the potential risk of voter fraud and determining that the additional requirements placed on voters were not so severe as to violate protections set out in the Tennessee Constitution.

Visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov to read the City of Memphis, Tenn. v. Hargett Opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, and the concurring Opinion by Justice William C. Koch, Jr.


3rd Edition Of Popular Stokes Photo Book To Be Issued

With a second edition of the popular Stokes Photo Book selling out, Chattanoogan.com will publish a third edition of 1,000 copies. John Wilson, publisher, said, "We continue to get calls and emails inquiring about the availability of this remarkable Chattanooga photo collection. So we have asked College Printing at Collegedale to put the almost 600-page book back on the presses. ... (click for more)

Fire Damages Vacant Home On Camden Street

Chattanooga firefighters were called to a house fire around  7:30  Sunday morning at 2105 Camden Street. Captain David Brooks with Engine 4 said smoke and flames were visible when they arrived. The firefighters got the fire out fairly quickly. No injuries were reported. Captain Brooks estimated the loss at $15,000. The owner of the house told firefighters that ... (click for more)

Obama Doesn't Want You To Save For College

Over the past few decades, federal aid for post-secondary education has decreased and transitioned largely from grants to guaranteed student loans.   At the same time, the cost of college has far exceeded the cost of inflation creating a situation in which college has become less affordable and causing students to pile up debt that is at an all-time high.   This debt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Great Peace Pipe

There is a serious rift between our state legislators and Erlanger Hospital that has me worried. If I worry about something, it doubles the power of the worry. My problem? I am convinced we have the best collection of people at the State Legislature in Nashville we’ve ever had – I adore each of them. I am also blessed to believe Erlanger is back on track and, after a sensational ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Earns State Duals Berth With 45-33 Win

The Notre Dame wrestling team is peaking at the right time. It's been an up and down season for the Fighting Irish and for the first time all year, they have a full lineup. And now they can start making plans for next weekend's State Duals in Franklin after beating East Ridge for the second time in three days. The Irish beat East Ridge by eight points on Thursday night ... (click for more)

UTC Wrestlers Top VMI, 35-3

Highlighted by a victory at 285 pounds in a battle of the unbeatens, Chattanooga defeated visiting VMI, 35-3 Sunday afternoon at Maclellan Gym. In the final match of the day (285), UTC's Jared Johnson (24-6, 4-0) edged Juan Adams (16-10, 4-1), 9-7. Johnson, who has now won eight straight, used two takedowns and a 2-point near fall to lead 6-1 after one period and needed ... (click for more)