Tennesseans will begin casting ballots this week in a general election for the first time under the state’s new voter identification requirement, but the law’s future remains in question as a Nashville court prepares to hear arguments on whether it should be struck down. Early voting starts Wednesday for the Nov. 6 election, one day before the Tennessee Court of Appeals is to hold a hearing on the constitutionality of the law that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. The timing of the hearing means that some voters will go to the polls without certainty about the law’s status. Foes say they will shift from their assault on the law itself to get-out-the-vote efforts. State election officials are similarly proceeding as if the law will be upheld.
The election in Tennessee and the court case could both be important tests for voter ID laws, which remain on legally questionable grounds more than four years after the U.S. Supreme Court said states could impose such requirements.
A wave of states passed voter ID laws ahead of the 2012 election, but courts in Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Pennsylvania have struck down new requirements or delayed their implementation. Tennessee’s requirement has been upheld so far, though a federal judge in August questioned lawmakers’ choices as to the types of ID allowed at the polls.