The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a 2011 law requiring photo identification at the polls, ruling that lawmakers had the authority to take steps to guard against fraud. The court ruled unanimously Thursday against the City of Memphis and two voters in Shelby County who had argued the ID requirement placed an unfair burden on the poor, elderly and others who lack driver’s licenses. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court and many other state courts have upheld similar voter ID requirements. He also said that, while instances of people impersonating voters at the polls have not been documented in Tennessee, such cases have occurred elsewhere. “Protection of the integrity of the election process empowers the state to enact laws to prevent voter fraud before it occurs,” Wade said. “It is within the authority of the General Assembly to guard against the risk of such fraud in this state, so long as it does not do so in an impermissibly intrusive fashion.”
Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the unanimous ruling shows the photo ID requirement did not harm voters, despite complaints from a small group of Tennesseans.
“The unanimous decision emphasizes just how well the law was written,” he said. “We felt very strongly all along that the law would be found constitutional. I’m pleased but not surprised.”
George Barrett, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed and would consult his clients before making a decision on any other potential steps.