A legal challenge to Tennessee’s voter-ID requirement went before a state appeals court Thursday. Early voting just got underway in the first presidential election since the law passed.
Two women from Memphis want the court to overturn the new law, or at least suspend it until after the election, like in some states with similar laws. Failing that, plaintiffs say voters should be allowed to use other forms of ID, like a Memphis library card with a photo.
The three-judge panel grilled both sides with pointed questions. At one point Judge Andy Bennett took lawyer Douglas Johnston to task. Johnston argued tens of thousands of older Tennesseans might not be able to vote because they have driver’s licenses with no photo:
Johnston: “Now, we don’t know that all of those people have no other form of photo identification. But we don’t know that they do, either.”
Bennett: “So what use is that figure?”
Johnston: “That tells–“
Bennett: “Isn’t that just speculation? We don’t know if they’ve got military IDs; we don’t know if they’ve got state IDs.”
Another judge suggested it’s arbitrary to exclude college student IDs, when polls accept other identification, even if it’s expired and from another state. And can polls in Tennessee count on IDs from other states to be properly vetted?
“No election is perfect,” Judge Bennett remarked at one point. It’s not clear exactly when the court might rule.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said after the hearing that a ruling against the ID requirement could throw a wrench into the current election process. More than 120 thousand Tennesseans went to the polls on the first day of early voting this week, and Goins says the voter ID law turned away 18 of them.