Appeals court upholds voter ID law, drawing mixed reaction

Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 6:20pm

Voters in Memphis can use a photo ID card issued from the public library system there to vote, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Legislators and political interest groups across the spectrum have mixed feelings about the ruling, which overturned a lower court’s decision on the validity of library identification cards but upheld an earlier decision that the state’s voter ID law is constitutional.

"While allowing library cards clearly violates the legislative intent of this law, the court rightly affirmed the law's constitutionality,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a Blountville Republican.

He added, “Tennessee's voter ID law is necessary, proper and completely constitutional. This has been made plain by the courts and remains undisputed.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell said she is unsure whether the Republican-led General Assembly next year will have the desire to beef up the law and further restrict what IDs can be used to vote, but is happy the court agreed with the legislature’s bigger picture of the law’s constitutionality.

“We may not agree on what that photo ID should be, but certainly they have not struck down the idea that you should have a photo ID when you vote,” Harwell said.

The court issued the decision one week after hearing arguments on the appeal, expediting the ruling given that early voting locations have been open since Oct. 17 and the Nov. 6 election is less than two weeks away.

Lawyers representing the city of Memphis and two residents whose votes weren’t counted when they voted with library cards in the August primary election said they’re pleased the city has been “vindicated,” but still question the law’s constitutionality.

“We were disappointed the statute was held constitutional and we’re reviewing our options,” said Nashville attorney George Barrett.

Mike Turner, a leading House Democrat representing Old Hickory, said he is torn over the court’s decision. Ruling that library cards can be used in Memphis to vote “is a step in the right direction,” but the decision was “not as good as I’d hoped for,” he said.

“The intent was to suppress voters from voting,” he said. “I’m disappointed they didn’t overturn it like a lot of states have done.”

Even with opening the door to allow library cards to operate as IDs acceptable at the ballot box, Tennessee’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the law still disenfranchises voters.

“Today’s ruling at least helps Memphians meet the onerous photo ID requirement, but we remain committed to promoting access to the ballot box for all of the Tennesseans whose vote is still burdened by the photo ID law,” said Hedy Weinberg, the chapter’s executive director.

In a conference call to reporters late Thursday, state officials said they expect to appeal the court's decision Friday under a Supreme Court rule, which would automatically maintain the current practice to deny use of a library ID, said Mark Goins, coordinator of the state Division of Elections.

"We're kind of changing the rules of the game during the game," he said. "Obviously, you can see this creates some problems for us as far as training our poll workers," he said.

Of the 725,000 voters statewide, officials have recorded 67 people voting with provisional ballots because they lacked proper ID. Of those, 29 returned with proper identification, allowing their vote to count.

For now, Memphis voters who only show their library ID card will be instructed to vote on a provisional ballot, but it's unclear whether the vote will be counted, said Goins.

Some suggest if the ruling sticks, it could open up doors for other municipalities to issue other IDs used to vote.

“The ruling clearly states that city-issued library cards lawfully fulfill the requirements of the photo ID to vote law,” said Mary Mancini, executive director for Tennessee Citizen Action, which has attacked state and local officials for voting inconsistencies this election cycle.

“It should send a clear message to the Tennessee State Legislature that their attempts last session to limit allowable IDs to only a handful were both restrictive and excessive,” she said.    

28 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 10/25/12 at 6:14

Oh Ramsey, suck it up. When does he go out of office?

By: Badbob on 10/25/12 at 8:59

They can say all they want. I have seen a lot of stress put on older people who do not deserve it. Of course Republicans have no respect for anyone else... especially anyone OLD.

I ran into a woman who said, she'd voted in every Presidential election since Truman. But she was not too old for them to let her vote anymore. I can't tell you how angry I am at the way that woman has been treated by self-righteous Republican punks.

By: govskeptic on 10/26/12 at 3:19

Badbob: Get over your incorrect charge of Republicans hating the old. The Court
of Appeals attempted to please everyone with this ruling that the Library Cards in
Memphis were valid instruments. Election rules are a state issue, not ones for
locals to legislate. The Secretary of State's appeal to the State Supreme Court
on this one part of the ruling will be upheld and all will be fine with the world.

By: gdiafante on 10/26/12 at 5:08

You get over yourself, gov. The intent of all these voter ID laws are as transparent as that pointy little head of yours.

By: yogiman on 10/26/12 at 5:40

Sorry, gdiafante,

The intent of the voter ID is to make damn sure you are who you claim to be. No complaints were made when the law was passed to prove your identity to buy a pack of tobacco or bottle of beer.

Isn't voting for the President of this nation a more important need of proof; or would you like to make several votes to gain you favorite man for President?

Since there has been 4 years of questioning the identity of the man sitting in that office, shouldn't anyone running for that office be required to prove they are Constitutionally eligible for that office? No true American would argue they shouldn't identify themselves.

By: Rasputin72 on 10/26/12 at 5:48

Every now and then those of us who provide the tax base for the "free stuff" and underclass element win one. This was a win for us.

Thank goodness for money. Our only divisor away from the human quagmire that exists in this country.

By: frodo on 10/26/12 at 7:11

What will the court allow next as voter ID, a Benghazi bus pass?

By: fan13 on 10/26/12 at 7:45

hattrick......This law places an unfair burden on the elderly and disabeled, the most "unlikely groups" to cheat. Not to mention those families that have been foreclosed on or evicted in the past yr.
Perhaps strict ID laws would more appropriately be applied when obtaining "the free stuff". We ALL personally know some folks obtaining "free stuff" not intended for them, and don't know anyone guilty of voter fraud. The violations of safety net laws are agregious while voter fraud is rare. Unless, of course you are 1 of the partys shredding the voters registrations of the other party in Fla.

By: Moonglow1 on 10/26/12 at 8:16

Moonglow1: The only people getting "free stuff" are the elected politicians and religious nuts who tell their congregation whom to vote for.

Defense contractors, oil companies, The Koch brothers, Bain, and other corporate raiders also get free stuff in the form of tax subsidies paid for by you and me.

Believe me: if the two R's win, the United States will rapidly decline.

One plutocrat said, "If the Chinese can work for 99 cents per hour so should the American worker. ". Remember that comment next time you bash unions.

So yeah, the TP repubs are trying every trick in the book to elect a plutocrat. Vote for Obama!! At least all you poor and middle class will have a chance.

Also Romney is planning to screw around with the mortgage deduction. You may end up deducting a "pool" of stuff up to a paltry 15K. So your taxes will increase while the President of the United States has his money in the Cayman's.

These plutocrates must be rolling in laughter at the stupidity of the masses. Especially in the South where they distract from the real issues with the spotlight on abortion and religion.

Gee what happens of Ryan's wife is raped and gets pregnant. Yeah I'd like to hear beady eyed Ryan talk about the baby as a gift from God and how his wife will grin and bear it carrying her rapist's baby to term. Ah yes, Ryan: so disingenuous.

By: amoobrasil on 10/26/12 at 8:17

Since there is no evidence of voter fraud in Tennessee, and since all instances reported by the media of voter fraud in the 2012 campaign have been committed by the GOP, no informed person can truthfully or honestly dispute the fact that the law was passed in this state for the reason that it was passed in all other Republican-controlled states: to restrict the number of votes likely to be votes for Democrats.

If the GOP could get away with passiing a law restricting the vote only to people who register Republican, most "conservatives" whites, IMO, would applaud it.

The right to vote freely and without restriction has been cited as a reason for the blood spilled by our countrymen. By way of contrast, the GOP, no lover of freedoms that pose a challenge to its wielding power, would be happy with a Soviet-style tyranny, provided the GOP was calling the shots.

By: jonw on 10/26/12 at 8:56

.Moonglow, the only laughter at the stupidity of the stupid that I see is for you. You wrote an opinion, which is your right. However, opinions are like a certain orifice of the body - - everyone rates one.
Please give specific instances of fact instead of innuendo.
Ah yes, Moonglow, so disingenuous.

By: Ron B on 10/26/12 at 9:04

My 85 year old grandmother probably won't get to vote in this election because of this law. She's lived in the same residence for almost 50 years, and is a widow of a WWII veteran. She has a State issued Voter ID card that was issued to her years ago, and is updated every election cycle.

But she doesn't drive ( actually has never driven, to my knowledge ), and got by for years showing her social security card, or her Medicare card, or ironically, her Voter ID card. The only photo ID that she owns, is an old beer license she had to get 25 years ago, when she was helping her son at his bar and grill.

The new laws required her to not only pay $15 for her birth certificate, but to go down to the DMV and take a photo picture. For someone her age, that's just too much trouble for her to do, in her eyes. So if the old beer license doesn't qualify under this new law, she won't be able to vote.

It's kind of sad really. This could very well be the last election that she's alive to vote in, and she won't have a voice because some people are afraid that people are cheating the system so bad, that they even force seniors to adhere to this ridiculous law. Meanwhile, her insurances and prescription costs are ridiculous.

It's funny. The Memphis Library Card IS a state issued Photo ID. But some were even against THAT from being used. Some were even against Tennessee students using their college ID from being used, even if university faculty could use THEIR University ID to vote.

There's too many agendas in this country. People simply look out for their own interest, and damn if it hurts anybody else.

By: frodo on 10/26/12 at 9:16

Sorry about your 85-year-old grandmother, Ron. Maybe you should be a good citizen and help her out with some proper ID. I would rather my grandmother be prevented from voting than allow 20 who hold nothing but a Tijuana bus pass into the voting booth...or 50 professional voters bused in from Chicago to vote early and often for dead people.

By: frodo on 10/26/12 at 9:27

I'm just barely old enough to recall (or at least hear talk of) a day when a grandson made sure grandma had what she needed. Now it is "someone else's problem," and we just whine when it doesn't work out. Pathetic.

By: Ron B on 10/26/12 at 9:28

@ frodo

Your flippant answer proves that you're not really sorry, which is the point that some have made in this thread about the intent of the law and who the law is REALLY targeting.

Because my grandmother doesn't have an ID, she has to apply to get her birth certificate and fill out two sheets of info. Then mail it to Nashville. Then wait on the state to send her a copy of her birth certificate. Then go to the DMV, wait in line, and take a picture ID.

For someone who is OLD and really needs and want things to be as simple as possible at her old age, all of this is just a major inconvenience to her.

You talk about extreme and ridiculous cases of voter fraud, yet, you're willing to prevent someone who hasn't moved from a residence for 50 years from voting in an election, simply she has proof of everything of who she is, except a STATE issued photo ID.

That's TRUE voter fraud right there.

By: Ron B on 10/26/12 at 9:29

"simply beause she has proof of everything of who she is, exept a STATE issued photo ID"

By: Rasputin72 on 10/26/12 at 9:31

MOONGLOW........If people like you would stay out of WAL-MART buying products that are made by people making 99 cents an hour then maybe employers making products in America could pay you "people" more.

By: wasaw on 10/26/12 at 9:38

I've never read such whining. This law was passed well over a year ago. You whiners who complain have had plenty of time to take your relatives to TN DMV locations and get them the proper I.D. While you're with them, take them out to eat and show them some love. If you really cared for them, you'd have already taken care of this one little need, for them.

Ron, you are aware that several exceptions were written into the law for senior citizens in nursing homes and for absentee ballots? One more thing Ron, this legislation wouldn't have been necessary if not for corruption in Memphis several years ago with voter fraud in the election of Democratic Sen. Ophelia Ford of Memphis. Why has voter fraud only been found in Democrat elections? Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

By: Ron B on 10/26/12 at 9:39

By: frodo on 10/26/12 at 10:27

I'm just barely old enough to recall (or at least hear talk of) a day when a grandson made sure grandma had what she needed. Now it is "someone else's problem," and we just whine when it doesn't work out. Pathetic.


Well I can't take a picture for grandma. Or forge her signature on a state document. Or explain to her why some paranoid individuals feel that the Voter ID card that she's used for years, simply isn't enough anymore.

She actually got pizzed because the State of Tennessee makes anybody born before 1949 pay $15, while anybody born after 1949 paid $8. And this was because Seniors have to fill out a long form to obtain their birth certificate. Even when I offered to pay the $15, she was still mad that she had to pay more, and do all of these things.

But yet, someone like yourself sees this as "whining". She's OLD dude.

By: Ron B on 10/26/12 at 9:47

The Ophelia Ford case involved poll workers, not actual voters. Those Memphis poll workers could've still done what they did, with a voter ID law in place.

By: Bellecat on 10/26/12 at 11:26

I have worked in elections for well over a decade. I have NEVER seen voter fraud. Statistically speaking, voter fraud has been virtually non-existent. The cure has turned out to be far worse than the problem--many more people will not be allowed to vote, than have ever been charged with voter fraud.

When Ron Ramsey said "While allowing library cards clearly violates the legislative intent of this law", he was right. Lets call it what it really is--suppression of votes.
Yes, voters should have an ID, but they should be timely, fair and consistent, and with rules agreed upon by both political parties. These particular procedures have been set in place by republican legislatures all over the country simply to try and stop people who normally vote for the "other" party from voting at all. Even a simpleton should be able to discern this. Other states have struck down these laws. The Tennessee Appeals Court has been incompetent here.

Elections are supposed to be the voice of the people, and America's elections have always been a shining example to the world . With shenanigans like trying to suppress votes, how can we say that? No matter what side of the political aisle we sit on, we should all want EVERY citizens vote to count, and desire to have fair and true elections, instead of a pretend election.

By: fan13 on 10/26/12 at 10:34

hattrick..For all of those who believe that this law will "stop voter fraud".....If one does NOT have govt issued photo ID..absentee ballot is the way to vote. The entire law IS intimidating, restrictive, confusing,supid and is intended to supress the applies to all voters D or R equally. It's an equal opportunity nuisance.
So, don't let your vote be suppressed...VOTE ABSENTEE !

By: gofer on 10/27/12 at 12:41

If they were giving away 100 dollar bills with a valid photo ID, there would be no problem with everybody showing up with one. If it's too much trouble to get the proper ID, then the election is just not important to you. There is no constitutional right to vote in a Presidential election. Artur Davis, the former black Congressman, changed his mind on ID requirements after he saw the rampant voter fraud in local elections in Ala., where several wound up in jail. The effect is much greater is local elections because of the narrow margins, so it's vitally important that the votes be legitimate.

A photo ID is invaluable in everyday life and getting one will help, not only in elections, but in everyday activities. In Illinois, you have to show one to buy drain cleaner.

Democrats know about fraud and that's why they don't want ID's mainly because of so many illegal aliens. Don't kid yourselves, they know they can get them to vote if they don't have to show ID's. When already have the case of the Congressman's son, in Va., plotting voter fraud. The excuse of the eldery and minorities don't have ID's is false. The real ones are illegal aliens. I'm eldery, along with all my eldery friends and we all have ID's. Even my 90 year old Dad has a photo ID. Stop with the excuses.

By: gofer on 10/27/12 at 12:46

Maybe somebody can explain why minorites don't have or can't get a photo ID. Is there something about them that makes their life different that they don't have to show ID when buying booze, getting prescriptions, going to doctor, gettting assistance, check cashing, air travel, getting loans, buying sinus medicine, etc., etc. I honestly don't understand why somebody think it's vote suppression unless minorities don't live their lives like everbody else.

By: pswindle on 10/27/12 at 10:03

What TN needs is a paper trail, but the GOP would never have that because an election could be verified.

By: FLeFew on 10/27/12 at 3:07

pswindle -
you probably want to encourage the current voting of busloads of Somalis in Ohio. Also you want many more busloads of Obama's non-english speaking Muslim friends that have been granted citizenship in Memphis by a Democrat judge there. They cannot speak English so they get library cards,

By: pswindle on 10/29/12 at 10:15

At last count, it is not the Democrats that is the problem. Several GOP have been fired for trying to rig the election, and to mention what the governors have done to stop some from voting. If the ones that you named FleFew are by law can vote, why not? Tagg Romney owes voting machines, and that is not a problem. Romney will say or do anything to be elected. He is a total joke.

By: Ask01 on 10/30/12 at 3:52

Yes, pswindle, he, Willard, is a total joke. The problem is few are laughing.

To offer, once again, I believe Josepf Stalin opined that who votes is inconsequential; who counts the votes is the true deciding factor.

Of course, when you are desperate, any scheme which offers to alter the vote seems appropriate, even if you have to front a ruse so thin as the voter fraud issue.

Curious how so few prosecutions have been waged against the insidious problem. The obvious conclusion is there is no overwhelming problem.

I believe the Republican machine will be surprised how many of those they sought to disenfranchise will actually turn out to vote, having made the effort just to spite them and their corporate masters.

Equally surprising will be the number of 'the right' people who, offended by the shameless, overt attempt to rig an election through despicable tricks who will vote just to spite the 3 R's.

Just one man's opinion.