Often overlooked in discussions around state voter ID law battles is Tennessee. North Carolina and Texas currently warrant attention given the lawsuits that have been filed there — both involving the U.S. Department of Justice — but Tennessee has also experienced its own share of voter ID drama. It is currently among the four states that the National Conference of State Legislatures classifies as “strict photo ID” states. Unlike North Carolina and Texas, Tennessee wasn’t covered by Section Five of the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court deactivated it earlier this year, meaning Tennessee had been able to make election law changes without submitting them to the federal government to review for possible racial discrimination. Photo voter ID became the law of the state in May 2011. But outside of the spotlight, there’s a fight going down over Tennessee’s voter ID law. Public officials and activists have mounted court challenges and hosted rallies against the law since it was passed. The mayor of Memphis found a unique loophole by arguing that a library card should qualify to vote since it is issued by an entity of the state — the city-run libraries. He was able to keep that loophole open for last November’s presidential elections.
Over the last couple of weeks, two major developments have occurred in Tennessee’s fight over voter ID that have implications not only for the state but also for the nation: The state supreme court ruled that the voter ID law was constitutional, and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced legislation to expand access to voter ID cards where needed.
First the bad news: On Oct. 17, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the legislature’s decision to close the library card loophole and also upheld the constitutionality of voter ID. That ruling might make it difficult for voter ID law challenges in other states, as those courts may look to this opinion as a reference point for their own.
The overall score on these state court challenges are mixed. State courts in Missouri and Wisconsin, as just two examples, have shot down voter ID laws, while Georgia courts upheld theirs. A Pennsylvania state judge originally upheld its voter ID law but that decision was appealed; the law currently hangs in limbo while awaiting a final decision from the state.
Full Article: The overlooked fight against voter ID in Tennessee.