by Steven Hale
Having lost its case to use photo library cards at the polls, the city of Memphis is now challenging the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law as a whole. The Commercial Appeal reports that attorneys for the city filed an amended complaint earlier this week and have asked the federal court to seek an answer from the Tennessee Supreme Court as to whether the law violates the state constitution.
Despite finding that the state's new law requiring that voters present photo ID did not allow for the use of photo IDs from the city's public library, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger urged the legislature to revisit the law, parts of which she called "nonsensical."
As for the constitutional challenge, Rick Locker identifies the legal hinge here:
The city's amended lawsuit argues that the Tennessee Constitution's Article 4, Section 1, provides "the sole and exclusive qualifications for citizens and residents" of Tennessee to vote. That section provides: "Every person, being 18 years of age, being a resident of the United States, being a resident of the state for a period of time as prescribed by the General Assembly, and being duly registered in the county of residence for a period of time before the day of any election as prescribed by the General Assembly, shall be entitled to vote in all federal, state, and local elections held in the county or district in which such person resides. All such requirements shall be equal and uniform across the state, and there shall be no other qualification attached to the right of suffrage."
However, the legal battle is likely to be over the following sentence in the same section: "The General Assembly shall have power to enact laws requiring voters to vote in the election precincts in which they may reside, and laws to secure the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box."
That last bit — securing the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box — is the ostensible motivation for voter ID laws in Republican-controlled states across the country. But the evidence that the ballot box has been significantly less than pure has been either scant, or illustrative of improprieties that a voter ID law can do nothing about — cases involving absentee ballots, for instance. That leaves one with the conclusion that, perhaps, the cause for such laws has much more to do with the likely effect: a more difficult time for likely Democratic voters.
Making points that many are likely to dismiss because they are punctuated with punch lines, Jon Stewart took up the issue last night on The Daily Show, featured below in two parts.