A legendary Tennessee lawyer whose push for voting rights dated back to the civil rights movement died last summer, not long before a new federal report found evidence that he might have had a point about that state’s voter identification law. Now many of those who worked closely with him say they intend to keep the cause alive. George Barrett died in August, two months before a new report by the Government Accountability Office found that states — including Tennessee — which toughened their voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not. While there were few reports of voting problems in Tennessee following the Nov. 4 general election, voter advocates say the report justifies the need to examine the effects of the voter ID law in Tennessee, one of 33 states to enact laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls. In doing so they hope to rekindle the efforts of Barrett, a one-man crusader whose courtroom advocacy dated back to the lunch-counter sit-ins of the early 1960s, when it was rare for a white attorney to take up the cause of black college students.
“We are running with the momentum George generated,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which supported Barrett in a lawsuit filed in 2012 against the state’s voter ID law. “His inspiration continues to give us the energy and the wherewithal to move forward, to ensure that access to the ballot box is available to all Tennessee citizens.”
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Barrett also represented corporate whistleblowers, fought for labor rights, tackled securities fraud, and handled a case that ultimately desegregated the state’s public colleges and universities.
Barrett was passionate about the vote, and battled disenfranchisement up until his death at the age of 86. “He remained undaunted in his pursuit of the franchise for all,” Weinberg said. The GAO report’s evidence wasn’t around when Barrett was pursuing his lawsuit against the state’s voter ID law, which an appeals court rejected.
Full Article: TN voter ID law opponents keep up fight.