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.


Governor's Council Extends Application Deadline For Vacancy In 9th Judicial District

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments has extended the deadline for applications for the Criminal Court judge vacancy in the 9 th  Judicial District – Loudon, Meigs, Morgan, and Roane counties. The impending vacancy has been created by Judge E. Eugene Eblen’s announcement that he is retiring effective  Dec. 31 . The council received two applications for ... (click for more)

Evening Lane Closures On I-24 Tuesday-Thursday For Median Wall Repairs

Beginning Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, between the hours of 8 p.m.-6 a.m., the TDOT bridge repair crew will be making permanent repairs to a damaged median barrier wall on I-24 East at mile marker 178.   The wall was severely damaged in a crash involving a jack knifed tractor trailer on July 28.   The crew will demolish the wall Tuesday ... (click for more)

Sheriff Hammond Is Right On The Muslim Threat

Sheriff Hammond is exactly correct on the Muslims in Tennessee.  He sees with clear eyes the problem with the Muslims in our state and country.  They do want to take over Tennessee.  Our politicians are selling us down the river and allowing the trouble makers to dig in like tics and suck out the life's blood of our Constitution and take us over.  They ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My September Garden

As we begin the annual pilgrimage into fall, I walk through my garden and, in the spirit of Orchids and Onions, I see colorful mums starting to flower at the same time dried-up weeds are begging to be pulled. So as we turn the calendar to September, here are some things that catch my eye: A COLORFUL MUM to Chattanooga State for unveiling the Michael Hennen Hospitality Center in ... (click for more)

Jumper, Ex-Baylor Star, To Start For Vols Against Bowling Green

When 25th-ranked Tennessee plays Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, former Baylor School standout Colton Jumper will be the Vols’ starting middle linebacker. The 6-foot-2-inch, 227-pound Jumper played at Baylor for coach Phil Massey and recorded 251 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, two interceptions, caused five fumbles, recovered two ... (click for more)

County Schools Waiting On Report On Condition Of East Ridge High Stands

County school officials are awaiting a report from city of East Ridge inspectors on the condition of the concrete football stands at East Ridge High School. Lee McDade, assistant supt., said maintenance of the stands is up to the county schools. The concrete stands are currently roped off. The concrete complex includes a lower area with coaches' offices and player dressing ... (click for more)