VOL. 127 | NO. 132 | Monday, July 9, 2012
City Says Library Photo Cards Should Stand For Election ID
By Bill Dries
New Memphis library cards that include a photo have become a challenge to the new state law requiring certain state-issued photo identification in order to vote.
The Memphis library system unveiled the move to the photo library cards last week with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. saying the new library cards could be used to vote starting with the upcoming Aug. 2 elections. Early voting begins Friday, July 13.
Less than 24 hours later, Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins contradicted that, saying the new library cards are not valid for voter identification.
The response from City Attorney Herman Morris came Saturday and it went beyond the question of the new library cards to the root of the law.
“The administration of the city of Memphis does not support the new state requirement that challenges voters to produce a photo ID to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote,” Morris said. “We do, however, wish to provide citizens all legally appropriate and accessible opportunities to meet the requirements of the law, while it exists. … It is regrettable that those charged in carrying out our elections seem set on denying the opportunity to the citizens to use this additional equally legal, more convenient and accessible means of satisfying the new photo ID requirement. … It satisfies the law and in our opinion; no one utilizing it for voting purposes should be challenged.”
For the Shelby County Election Commission, the body that will check voter identification starting with the opening of early voting Friday at its Downtown headquarters, the legal opinion that counts comes from Goins.
“The legislature clearly intended that only state or federal photo IDs can be used,” Goins wrote Friday after the new library cards were unveiled, “which prevents us from accepting county or city IDs.”
Beyond Goins, an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office could either change that conclusion or reinforce it.
Morris weighed in earlier this year with a 33-page legal opinion at Wharton’s request that could be the start of a legal challenge of the voter identification law.
“More than one city agency and potentially the city government as a whole, would qualify as a state entity under the Tennessee Code Annotated, with the Memphis library system being a primary example,” Morris wrote in the Jan. 18 legal opinion that was released Saturday. “Further, more than one city agency is authorized by law to issue identification.”