A recent defeat in Tennessee Supreme Court ended any chance that photo identification cards issued by the Memphis Public Library can be used as voter ID—at least for now. But Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris says the yearlong legal battle produced at least one significant victory, and hinted at future challenges to the state law. Meanwhile, Memphis will continue to distribute library cards bearing photo IDs, an innovation that remains popular with patrons some 16 months after they first became available to residents. About 7,300 have been issued to date, Director of Libraries Keenon McCloy told LJ this week, and demand for them remains steady. The cards were created in in July 2012, shortly after Tennessee began requiring photo ID to vote. And while the cards were not expressly created to serve as voter ID, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton was convinced they could and should serve that function, as well as others. “It’s a good idea, period,” Morris said of the cards, which debuted in August 2012. “It in fact was a need.”
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.”
The Green Party of Tennessee has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to throw out Tennessee’s voter ID law, calling it unconstitutional and unfair to minority voters. Alan Woodruff, an attorney in Gray, Tenn., who has represented the Green Party in previous lawsuits, said he filed the complaint Monday morning in the Eastern District of Tennessee. It names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants. “There is no justification for having the photo ID requirement, as there is no such thing as voter fraud,” said Woodruff, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year as the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District and might run again in 2014. “It’s overly burdensome. It affects minorities and the progressive-leaning voter more than the typical Republican conservative, and it was intended to.”
Voters may no longer use photo identification issued by other states as acceptable forms of identification when voting in person. This change mirrors similar laws in other states, including Indiana. Indiana’s photo ID law has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. The General Assembly amended Tennessee’s voter photo ID law during its recently concluded legislative session.
The Tennessee Comptroller’s audit division has concluded the Shelby County Election Commission has “demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies, including those identified in the 2012 elections.” But the audit review requested by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett also concludes there was “no discernable evidence of intentional misconduct or other actions intended to affect or influence the election process or election outcomes in Shelby County.” The report – which goes to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Hargett and state legislators, who will recommend election commissioners for counties across the state to the Tennessee Election Commission in April – examined election problems in Shelby County prior to 2012.
Tennessee: Election Commission could take ‘serious’ action in response to Shelby County’s voting problems | The Commercial Appeal
The Tennessee Election Commission could take “serious and substantial” action — possibly including ousting members of the Shelby County Election Commission — depending on the outcome of a review of the problems in the Aug. 2 election, a Memphis member of the state board said Monday. A performance audit of those problems by the state comptroller’s office is expected to begin as soon as this week, State Election Commission member Greg Duckett of Memphis said. The audit was requested July 26 by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins, who both called the problems “unacceptable.” Election analyst Joe Weinberg of Germantown estimates that nearly 3,200 Shelby voters were given incorrect ballots, mostly for the new state legislative districts they were moved into during this year’s redistricting, during the Aug. 2 election, including its early voting period. That number included some voters in areas annexed by Collierville, who were not given ballots that included that city’s referendum on municipal schools. The votes cast in incorrect districts were not counted and voters had no chance under state law to cast correct ballots after they had already voted.
Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis is suing the state, claiming that he and thousands of other Tennesseans were illegally taken off voter rolls in a recent purge of old registrations. Davis filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court Monday that says state election officials broke the law by not requiring more than 70,000 voters to be notified that their registrations had been canceled. Davis decided to sue after he and his wife were turned away at the polls when they attempted to vote in the Fentress County Democratic primary last Tuesday. “We’re seeing what I believe (is) an attack on individuals’ opportunity to be able to vote,” Davis said.
Tennessee: Democratic Party Says Election Commission Should Reveal Names Of Purged Voters | Chattanoogan.com
Announcing its support for the class action lawsuit filed by former congressman Lincoln Davis, naming as defendants Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee of Coordinator of Elections Marty Goins, the Hamilton County Democratic Party called on the Hamilton County Election Commission to join the lawsuit, and also to release the names of voters who have been purged from voter rolls since Mr. Goins’ appointment on Feb. 11, 2009. “As of Dec. 1, 2011, approximately 8,000 voters had been purged from the rolls in Hamilton County, just according to the six-month report included in the lawsuit,” said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith. “That is far more than would be needed to decide an election. We have the right to know who was purged, why, their party affiliation, their gender and their race. If the election commission is truly fair and unbiased, it will join the lawsuit and release this information to the public.”
Tennessee: Commissioner orders ‘common sense,’ speedy handling of voter ID cards | Knoxville News Sentinel
Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said supervisors at driver’s license testing stations have been instructed to use “common sense discretion” in issuing free photo identification cards to Tennesseans who need them for voting, even if they are missing a document required “from a technical standpoint.”
Gibbons also said driver’s service centers in 15 counties, including Knox, will be open on the first Saturday of every month, starting Nov. 5, to exclusively handle only photo ID card issuance. Citizens appearing on other days to get a photo ID voter card will be placed in an “express category” as compared to people seeking a regular driver’s license, he said.
The commissioner, who oversees driver’s license operations, appeared with Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the state election system, at a Nashville news conference Wednesday. Also in attendance were representatives of AARP, which has been working with state officials to educate voters about requirements of the new law taking effect Jan. 1.
State stats say it takes 53 minutes on average for someone to get a driver’s license from one of Tennessee’s 48 driver service centers. But those suffering through the process say the ordeal actually can last hours and even require multiple trips.
The difference? Official stats only take into account the time that elapses between a customer entering the building and getting served. They don’t include time customers often must spend in line before they actually get inside the service center, let alone the occasional need for coming more than once.
“This is from the time someone pulls a number to be served [meaning they are inside the building],” said Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “It does not include the wait time before then as there is no accurate way to determine that time.”
Empowered by last year’s elections, Republican leaders in about half the states are pushing to require voters to show photo ID at the polls despite little evidence of fraud and already-substantial punishments for those who vote illegally. Democrats claim the moves will disenfranchise poor and minority voters — many of whom traditionally vote for their…
Tennessee: Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett cites people as culprits | Cleveland Daily Banner
There were no comments while Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett presented a brief overview of his job — until he began talking about elections. After his speech Thursday in front of the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland, a member said the voting machines used in Tennessee do not have a recorded paper trail and could…