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.


DPD Seeks ID Of Pair Involved In Theft

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help identifying two women who worked together to steal an undetermined amount of merchandise from Walmart. The pair were recorded on store surveillance. Investigators believe the suspects live in the Chattanooga area and that they have been involved in numerous thefts from stores across northwest Georgia. ... (click for more)

Ralph Lee Nelms Arrested For Theft At Bradley County Construction Site

Ralph Lee Nelms was arrested for theft at a construction site on Tuesday in Bradley County. Deputies responded to the 100 block of Keystone Drive regarding a theft in progress. Upon arrival, a man was observed getting into a silver Ford Ranger that was in the driveway of a house under construction. Contact was made with the man, later identified as Ralph Lee Nelms, who stated ... (click for more)

Calling Out Bad Behavior In St. Elmo - And Response

I have lived in the St. Elmo community of Chattanooga for practicially all 52 years of my life. My grandmother moved to St. Elmo in 1919. My Dad was literally born in a home in St. Elmo and lived his entire 72 years in this community and my Mom has lived here 60 years of her life. I am very disappointed in what my neighborhood has become. I like people. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Amputee Team Wins Relay

As a news junkie there isn’t a lot that gets past me in my morning reading, yet I had no idea there was a relay race in Chattanooga two weekends ago. Maybe that’s why 1,500 people ran away and never came back – the finish line was in Nashville. How the Ragnar Relays work is pretty simple. The organizers pick two cities that are about 200 miles apart and then 12-to-14 runners ... (click for more)

Seth Ruhling Wins Chattanooga Chase 8K And One Mile

It has been six years since Seth Ruhling ran the Chattanooga Chase and maybe he had forgotten just how tough that 8K course really is, but that’s didn’t seem to matter Monday morning as he celebrated Memorial Day with victory in the Chattanooga Track Club’s oldest race. Ruhling graduated from Collegedale Academy in 2013 and is now a 21-year-old student at Southern Adventist ... (click for more)

Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic Set For Saturday at CCS

The 13th Annual Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic, presented by Great Clips, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday June 4 at Chattanooga Christian School in Chattanooga. Tennessee defeated Georgia 38-14 last June at McCallie School in Chattanooga. It was Tennessee's fourth consecutive victory in the series that dates back to the first game held at Ridgeland High in ... (click for more)