City Responds To State Appeal In Photo Voter ID Case

By Bill Dries

Attorneys for the city of Memphis will file a motion with the Tennessee Supreme Court by noon Monday, Oct. 29, in the photo voter ID court case.

Tennessee state government Friday, Oct. 26, filed an appeal with the Tennessee Supreme Court of Thursday’s Tennessee Appeals Court ruling that orders the Shelby County Election Commission to allow voters to use photo library cards as a valid form of voter identification.

The appeal filed Friday afternoon also seeks a stay of the court order which has effectively been put on hold by instructions state elections officials have given the local Election Commission.

A written statement from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's office Monday morning said the city's filing will ask the state supreme court "to deny the state's application for appeal based on the very narrow issues the state sought to appeal and the already well established law on those issues."

The state's appeal is not automatic. It must be granted by the Supreme Court. The court could reject it without comment, grant it without comment or set a hearing date or some combination of the three options. No hearing date has been scheduled as of Friday evening.

The appeal and request for a stay of the Appeals Court order cites “the heightened public interest in the proper implementation of the Voter Photo ID Act.”

“Such review is equally compelled by the fact that the Court of Appeals’ decision has essentially changed the rules on what type of identification is needed to vote in the midst of the election process,” the Friday filing reads. “The Court of Appeals decision has cast uncertainty on that process on the eve of the November election.”

The Appeals Court ruling upheld the state law requiring photo identification to vote in Tennessee. But the court also ruled that the photo library cards the city has been issuing since July are a valid form of identification to vote under the same law.

The order that came with the ruling required Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins to instruct the election commission to accept the library cards as proper identification in order to vote.

Hargett and Goins have told the election commission to stick with the policy since the city of Memphis began issuing the photo library cards of allowing voters presenting them to vote using a provisional ballot.

Thursday’s court order makes no mention of using a provisional ballot.

It orders Hargett and 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.”

The instructions issued Thursday by state officials leave open the possibility that the city of Memphis could also return to state court in Nashville seeking an end to the use of provisional ballots in that instance.

The appeals court order leaves enforcement of the order up to Davidson County Chancery Court.