Court of Appeals hears arguments on state voter ID law

Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:40pm

The future of Tennessee’s voter ID law heading into the November elections hangs in the balance as members of the state’s Court of Appeals weighed its constitutionality.

One day after polls opened for early voting, the three-member court heard arguments from the city of Memphis and two of its residents who say they were stripped of their right to vote due to the state’s new law requiring voters present a federal or state photo ID.

“Both the Constitution and the election statutes have a tension between maximizing participation and ensuring that those who participate are entitled to participate. That’s a tension that occasionally clashes and I think this might be one of those places where it does,” said Appeals Judge Andy Bennett.

“You want to have everybody who is entitled to vote, vote. And one way of making sure a person is entitled to vote is proving they are who they say they are and the best method is probably a photograph,” he said. He was joined by Judges Michael Swiney and Richard Dinkins on the court.

The judges appeared split on the issue and would normally take months to render a decision. But with early voting underway and the Nov. 6 Election Day near, a decision on the expedited case is expected within weeks. Both sides would have the option to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

One of the key issues for the judges was proving that two plaintiffs who appealed a lower court decision against them — Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell — were burdened by the new law.

The two women voted using ID cards issued by the Memphis Public Library during the August primary election because they did not own any other form of state or federal government identification. Their votes and those of at least 160 others were not counted, according to their attorney, Douglas Johnston.

“It is obvious there is confusion and concern about this statute,” he said.

The law requires voters to bring a form of state or federally issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, military ID or handgun carry permit. The law also allows voters to present expired identification and IDs issued by other states, like a boating license.

Although the case is not a class action lawsuit, attorneys for both the city and the state took up issues that have become part of the larger discussion about the state’s voter ID law, such as why the Legislature chose to exclude university IDs from the list of acceptable methods to identify voters, whether a photo is necessary to prove a person’s identity and the rarity of voter fraud.

“All the other people they talked about are not plaintiffs and not before this court,” argued Janet Kleinfelter, the state’s deputy attorney general, who said the only burden the two residents who are plaintiffs in the case have is the time it takes to obtain a free photo ID.

20 Comments on this post:

By: BASPUD on 10/18/12 at 7:28

BUD i do not see any thing or problem with having an id to vote drive or any thing else it is the people ilegaly that can,t vote is the problem

By: Kosh III on 10/19/12 at 6:39

Some form of ID may be necessary but the limitations on what is allowable are too restrictive and confusing.
Suppose it's an elderly person who has a non-photo ID but is the neighbor of an election worker--that should be sufficient.
Why is an expired boat ID from another state ok but not a state-issued university ID?

By: Rocket99 on 10/19/12 at 7:19

This law needs to be struck down like all of the other ones in the nation have been.

This is a form of voter supression by one party.

There is less than 1% voter fraud nation wide.

By: Kay Groves on 10/19/12 at 7:30

Why not simplify the process by having only the ID issued at the DMV as the only acceptable form of ID? It can be either a Drivers' license or ID made at the DMV. Everyone should be able to obtain one from there.

By: C.A.Jones on 10/19/12 at 8:17

I am in favor of the law. The problem I see with these non-state issued ID's is it does not have any authority to them to determine they are who they say they are. I can go to my local library and tell them my name is Abraham Lincoln and i'll have an ID that says such. Should I, as Abe, be able to vote in my local elections now?

By: wasaw on 10/19/12 at 9:04

In the time it has taken these plaintiffs to travel to their lawyers and make appearances before lesser courts, they could have obtained pictured ID's from the TN Department of Safety. I was only there a few weeks ago and most individuals there were obtaining ID's, only.

Everyone but the Democrat Appeals Court Judges know what is going on. Tennesseans have to produce identification to obtain a food stamp card, and to register a vehicle brought in from out of state, and to obtain a drivers license.

The comment above concerning voter fraud is rediculous. That writer surely understands that voter fraud is extremely difficult to prove and generally is not pursued unless the results of an election is extremely close.

By: pswindle on 10/19/12 at 9:25

Have you wondered why this law was passed in only states that has a GOP Governor?
The GOP saw the outpouring of people voting for President Obama, and they knew that they had to stop the masses from voting. We are finding out more each day about Romney. In June, Mitt talked to the business owners and told them to tell their employees to vote for him. He is trying to take their workers rights away. I hope that they enjoy the one thing that the US offers and that is your freedom to vote as you want. If Mitt gets in office the masses will suffer greatly. Bain Compnay which Mitt has 51% interest in is laying off workers and moving a company to China. This is happening right now. The workers are having to train the people of China to do their job. The move will be final by the end of the year. Watch Ed tonight on channel 51,at 7:00 pm, he is having his show at the location of the plant c;losing. Should open your eyes to what Mitt is all about.

By: getthebumsout on 10/19/12 at 10:03

No one should fall for this spin as voter suppression!
A legitimate vote w/ photo ID should be required, period!

By: govskeptic on 10/19/12 at 11:30

Good law, popular statewide by the majority of both parties. Not so popular
in Memphis and by a few Old Time politicos that have always stuck in a few
votes for good measure from dead, imprisoned, or took the place of others
they knew wouldn't be voting. What also should be mandated soon is the
same type ID to register to vote, same or more importance for the process.

By: Ask01 on 10/21/12 at 10:10

If an actual problem were being addressed, I would have no complaint. However, all the information I find indicates the incidence of voter fraud is so rare as to be insignificant, and certainly not worthy of having a special law, particularly one so obviously contrived and crafted to focus on specific demographics.

I have several forms of acceptable identification, and will probably bring the most obscure, but still, I repeat, acceptable according to what I have been able to determine, just to use instead of a license for the sole purpose of messing with the poll workers.

This law is merely an effort, no matter the rantings from many, to suppress the votes which might cause President Obama to be re-elected.

Between this and thinly vieled threats from business leaders about possible job losses, one must assume there exists a dark fear within the Republican and corporate America camp of losing their grip on power.

So everyone needs to go and vote, no matter how strongly they are told their vote doesn't matter, because in the end, would it not be funny if the Republicans, becoming so sure of victory failed to vote and President Obama actually carried Tennessee?

By: Ask01 on 10/21/12 at 10:23

One more thought concerning fraud. I believe it was Joseph Stalin who once said something to the effect, "It doesn't matter who votes, just who counts the votes."

Perhaps we are looking the wrong direction.

By: robowang on 10/22/12 at 8:29

I don't get it.
They have shown up for Court TWICE, spent hours in their attorney's office, have time to go to the Library to get a card, yet can't get a state issued ID?
This is INSANE!
ONE person's vote that gets disenfranchised by ONE fraud, is too many.
Isn't THAT the Liberal way?
So WHY is this such a problem?
We already know. Take away a BLACK or ILLEGAL ALIEN Democrat opportunity to cheat, and Democrats CAN'T WIN!
And don't say voter fraud doesn't happen. A Miss. State Congressman just went to prison on FOUR counts of vote fraud, 2 of which were voting in other districts.
The AZ branch of ACORN has been convicted for vote fraud (100's) and are waiting sentencing.
And on and on.
It's NOT a myth! So don't even go to THAT straw man.

By: robowang on 10/22/12 at 8:30

71% of American voters SUPPORT VOTER ID!
You ARE the fringe, lil buddy.

By: robowang on 10/22/12 at 8:34

Don't you get what you just said?
So 1-2 MILLION PROVEN to vote fraudulently is OK with you?
1-2 MILLION voters have thier votes not count due to fraud?
How about when it's YOUR vote that is negated?
You probably don't vote, or do so fraudulently, yourself.
ONE vote cancelled due to fraud is too many!
WOW, you are one stupid individual.

By: pswindle on 10/22/12 at 8:47

Voter ID is to supress the vote, period, and the GOP planned this out while President Obama was being sworn in. Our Sen. Corker was in on the deal. Just ask him!

By: FLeFew on 10/22/12 at 3:22


How can they count the number of incidents of voter fraud when many cases are refused or dropped by the Attorney General? Tory Johnson has refused to prosecute ANY incident brought to him by the county election commission.

By: Ask01 on 10/22/12 at 5:04

My, the love is overflowing today, isn't it?

Particularly from some deficient in basic manners, resorting to name calling and insults.

One legitimate voter denied the right to vote is also one too many, or does that not bother anyone so long as the "wrong" people are minimalized?

If a prosecutor drops a case, it is often because the case isn't strong enough or lacks merit.

Let's be honest, justice is not the goal of the legal system any longer. The goal, it seems, is to win convictions period. Guilt or innocence, I suspect is immaterial.

71%, eh? Was that poll conducted at a Young Republicans meeting?

Remember, even though I'm sure the concept is far too advanced for some, legally right is not always morally right.

By: Badbob on 10/23/12 at 7:46

Fraud? The real fraud is that nearly half the country voted for someone who didn't know who the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan were. Gee, that turned out to be pretty important, didn't it? And now the same people are ready to vote for someone who doesn't know Iran touches 2 different seas, but doesn't touch Syria. There is the real voter fraud - perpetrated on the less intelligent among us.

I just got to tell a retiree what he'd need to vote at breakfast. He didn't have a picture on his driver's license. But he did have an expired passport. Sorry GOP, you aren't going to prevent him from voting this time.

By: gofer on 10/23/12 at 10:28

Guess the GOP is trying to suppress drinking since an ID is required to buy booze no matter your age. There is no other reason to oppose ID than fraud. How does anyone manage to get through life without one. IF you are poor, you need it to get assistance and you have to show an ID to get a prescription and when you go to doctor. IT's ridiculous. The real reason is so many have lost their driver's license because of convictions or they aren't going to go get an ID because they have warrants out for them.

Americans overwhelming support voter ID with the majority of all races agreeing with the requirement. Nobody wants to stand in line only to have some illegal alien negate their vote. Illegal aliens are a key component for the dems and that's why they are fighting so hard against ID. Reid was behind in Nevada and all of a sudden there was a surge in votes, mostly illegals from the casinos. Why can't people just be honest, get an ID. Nobody is trying to suppress anything and it's just insane to believe that. IT keeps everybody honest.

What about the Ford election? How many fraudulent votes were cast in that sham?

By: gofer on 10/23/12 at 10:30


It's not really Obama's fault he doesn't know those things. He just wasn't schooled properly. Actually, you would be hard pressed to find anybody who could just spit that info out. It's not something that is used everyday,unless you are a geography teacher. Are you?