The Times Free Press reported recently that the controversial Voter ID law enacted by Governor Bill Haslam may face a challenge in court. While those who disagree with the law are not saying much, it has been confirmed that a "law suit is being contemplated." Attorney Gerard Stranch of Nashville and general counsel for the Tennessee Democratic Party confirmed the potential for a law suit, but said that he hoped the legislature would change the law this month.
The controversial law, which went into effect on January 1, requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Those supporting the law state it is necessary for preventing voter fraud. Interestingly enough, those in opposition to the law can only recognize one documented occurrence of voter fraud in the state of Tennessee. What many believe is the real reason for the law is an alleged national GOP effort to "disenfranchise millions of minority, elderly, young, and low-income voters across the U.S. before the upcoming 2012 election." Often times, these laws have a disparate impact on the socio-economic groups mentioned above who are more likely to lack the resources necessary to obtain a government-issued photo ID whether it be a lack of funds or a lack of proper documentation.
Many believe the recent rejection by the U.S. Department of Justice of a South Carolina law similar to Tennessee's will provoke the Tennessee Legislature to re-evaluate the law and eventually overturn it. The basis for this rejection is that the South Carolina law discriminated against minorities. According to proponents of the Tennessee law, South Carolina is under a different scrutiny than Tennessee when it comes to enacting Election laws. While South Carolina must seek approval by the U.S. Department of Justice before enacting any Election laws, Tennessee is not required to seek such approval. Because of this, supporters of the law believe legal action would be pointless.
Supporters of the law point to many efforts the Tennessee government has made to make this requirement easier on its citizens. For instance, driver services centers will be open the first Saturday of every month to help those in need of an ID obtain one. An ID issued for non driving purposes is also available for no charge unlike a driver's license. These efforts, supporters claim, prove that this law was not enacted with the purpose of creating a disparate impact on minorities and the elderly.
The citizens of the State of Tennessee will most likely have to wait this one out to see what happens. From the looks of it, either the TN Legislature will revisit the law later this month or those against the law will likely bring legal action. We'll keep you updated on its progress throughout the coming months.