The way to a court challenge of Tennessee’s voter identification law from Memphis takes a few twists and turns away from the polling place. And while Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. as well as several attorneys outside City Hall say they are ready to make the challenge, it will depend on who is willing to not have their vote counted in the Aug. 2 elections after they present a Memphis library card as photo ID to election officials. That could depend on how close the three countywide general election contests on the ballot turn out to be. Wharton and City Attorney Herman Morris have taken the position in a 33-page legal opinion Morris issued in January that the photo library cards the city began issuing last month meet the requirements for a valid state-issued ID card for voting purposes. Finding the right plaintiff will depend on what happens during the two days after a provisional ballot is cast.
“(A voter) may have standing if he’s just turned away without proper ID because he may not be able, for example, to come back within two days and bring additional information,” said attorney and former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman David Cocke. “When you get a provisional ballot, you’ve got two days to go down to the Election Commission and show with a voter ID or other proper ID that you are eligible to vote. And if you are stuck in the same situation where you don’t have a driver’s license and all you’ve got in that two-day period is that ID from the library, and they turn that down, then you definitely have standing to bring a cause of action for their failure to honor a proper state ID.”
Several political leaders suggest they or others may cast provisional ballots and then return to election officials again with the photo library card to make the legal challenge if the outcome of the unofficial election returns counted on the night of Aug. 2 won’t be affected by their votes. It depends on how close the races for General Sessions Court clerk, assessor and district attorney general are in the unofficial vote count.