by Steven Hale
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled yesterday that Memphis voters will not be able to use newly issued public library photo cards as voter ID in tomorrow's elections. As the City Paper's Pierce Greenberg reported a week ago, the city of Memphis had enacted a program to help citizens obtain library cards with photos on them, which the city believed to be acceptable under the state's new voter ID law. When state Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins declared that library cards were not valid, the city — which reportedly expected a challenge and was waiting for the opportunity to challenge the state's law — sued.
Yesterday, Trauger denied their request for an injunction ordering state officials to accept the cards as valid voter ID, and Republicans in the state were happy to pass on the news.
But they have been drawing less attention, if any at all, to the context in which the ruling came. Basically: Tennessee's new voter ID law doesn't make much sense, but photo IDs from the city's public library are not allowed under it.
The Commercial Appeal reports:
Although the judge said "there are parts of this act (the state law) that make no sense to the court and it does appear there will be unfair impacts, particular on the elderly," she said the plaintiffs in the case — the City of Memphis and a Memphis voter — "are not likely to succeed on the merits" in their efforts to allow the library-issued cards to qualify.
One of the provisions of the voter-photo statute passed by the new Republican majority in the Tennessee legislature last year that Trauger and even attorneys for the state agreed "makes no sense" allows long-expired hunting licenses or other photo ID issued by any other state to qualify for Tennessee voting — but not photo IDs issued by Tennessee cities or counties.
"I certainly do hope the legislature revisits this act because to the court, it is nonsensical that someone who holds an expired hunting license from another state and someone who has a photo ID from the library" are treated differently when it comes to voting, Trauger said.
The Tennessee Democratic party was more interested in Trauger's thoughts on the law, highlighting them in a blog post and calling for "the media and politicians stop buying into the farce that somehow this voter ID law is anything other than a poll tax designed to stop the poor and elderly from voting."