Appeals Court Rules Photo Library Cards Are Voter ID

By Bill Dries

Photo library cards the city of Memphis began issuing this summer can be used as valid identification for the Nov. 6 elections.

The Tennessee Appeals Court ruled Thursday, Oct. 25, that city of Memphis photo library cards are a valid form of state issued identification for voting under terms of a 2011 Tennessee that requires photo identification in order to vote.

The court accompanied the ruling with a one-page order that directs Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins “to immediately advise the Shelby County Election Commission to accept photo library cards issued by the city of Memphis Public Library as acceptable evidence of identification” under the 2011 state law.

The ruling comes as early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day is already underway.

The city’s position went two ways. First, city attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the state law arguing it was an obstacle to voting. The second argument was that if the court upheld the law, it should interpret the law to allow the photo library card as valid for voting purposes.

“Showing a photo ID is not a significant intrusion or burden,” read the appeals court ruling written by Judge Andy D. Bennett, who decided the case along with Judges Richard H. Dinkins and D. Michael Swiney. Bennett cited photo ID requirements to board a plane, enter federal buildings and cash a check in upholding the state law.

“Photographic identification is probably the best way of making sure a voter is the person he or she claims to be,” Bennett added citing past U.S. Supreme Court rulings that the burden in terms of cost for such identification is not substantial.

State case law, he added, “supports finding that the city is a branch, department, agency or entity of this state” under past Tennessee Supreme Court rulings on that specific issue.