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.


Derrick Richardson Says He Was Wrongly Convicted Of Murder 24 Years Ago

Derrick Richardson, 45, says he was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder in 1992. He testified in Judge Barry Steelman’s courtroom at a post-conviction hearing on Monday. Police reports from Dec. 8, 1991, describe the death of Louie F. Dwight, 39, who was found in his truck at 1903 Roanoke Ave. They said he had suffered three gunshot wounds to his legs. He was transported ... (click for more)

Woman Stabbed Twice During Altercation With Another Woman On Woodside Street

A woman was stabbed twice in an altercation with another woman outside a house on Woodside Street on Tuesday afternoon. The Chattanooga Police Department was notified by a local hospital that a female had arrived suffering from stab wounds to the neck and shoulder. The injuries are reported to be non-life threatening.  The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Investigators ... (click for more)

Expand Broadband Internet, Not The Size Of Government

I’d like to respond to two letters in your July 13 edition that praised Rep. Mike Carter’s efforts to expand statewide broadband access. Rep. Carter wants more government involvement in the broadband sector, including an expansion of taxpayer-funded, municipal broadband networks.  Rep. Carter’s supporters argued he’s standing up for consumers against huge telecommunications ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Horses Vs. DesJarlais

It is well-known that shortly after the despicable “Big Lick” faction of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry put on a very-pointed fundraiser for the equally repugnant Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) two years ago, the misguided doctor has repeatedly tried to bully and strong-arm the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the behalf of the vermin who sadistically torture the ... (click for more)

Dunbar Promoted To Head Wrestling Job At Ooltewah

J.D. Dunbar had been promoted to head wrestling coach at Ooltewah High School. Dunbar, an assistant with the Owls’ mat program since 2012, becomes a head coach for the first time at the high school level. He replaces Bryant Blackmon, who recently resigned. The 36-year-old Dunbar is also the school’s strength and conditioning coach and assistant head football coach on ... (click for more)

Another Big Week For Chattanooga Football Club

More than 10,000 fans gathered at Finley Stadium last Saturday to see a 5-3 penalty kick win over Miami United.   CFC keeper Gregga Hartley made a save and scored the winning penalty kick, helping his team to advance to the national semifinals on Saturday.  They will host Sonoma County Sol at 7:30 in the comfy confines of "Fort Finley"  Chattanooga is the top ... (click for more)