City Amends Voter ID Lawsuit

By Bill Dries

The city of Memphis is now mounting a direct challenge to the state’s voter photo identification law claiming the law adds “a qualification for the right to vote” beyond what is required in the Tennessee Constitution.

Attorneys for the city filed a motion Tuesday, Aug. 7, in Nashville Federal Court, seeking to amend the city’s original lawsuit. The original lawsuit sought a court order allowing photo library cards to be used as valid voter identification. The city began issuing the photo library cards in June.

Two attempts by the city to allow the use of the new library cards in the Aug. 2 elections were rejected by two federal court judges in the Middle District of Tennessee.

The city added a plaintiff to the lawsuit – Sullistine Bell, a senior citizen who does not have a photo ID drivers license.

“Due to her age and limited income it is very difficult for plaintiff Bell to get transportation and very difficult for her to make more than one trip,” the new filing by the city contends.

Bell presented her photo library card during early voting, was told it was not valid identification to vote under state law and was given a provisional ballot to mark her choices in the elections.

The section of the Tennessee Constitution at the center of the city’s new court claim sets four basic requirements to vote including being at least 18 years old, a resident of the state and of the U.S. and being registered to vote in the county where the election in question is being held.

“All such requirements shall be equal and uniform across the state and there shall be no other qualification attached to the right of suffrage,” reads Article 4, Section 1 of the Constitution. “The General Assembly shall have power to enact laws requiring voters to vote in the election precincts in which they may reside and laws to secure the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box.”