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VOL. 35 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 30, 2011




New Tenn. photo ID law could face challenge

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A requirement that Tennessee voters show photographic identification could be challenged in a lawsuit.

Unless or until there is legislative or court action to change the statute that took effect Jan. 1, it remains the law. Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins said his office anticipates voters will be required to show a photo ID when they go to the polls for the March primary elections, according to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/vDVhs9).

A legislative reversal seems unlikely, despite a petition drive that calls on the General Assembly to repeal the law.

"There are multiple problems with our state law," said Nashville lawyer Gerard Stranch. "It's not just that it would have a disparate effect on minorities. It's setting up a poll tax."

At issue is whether the statute adversely affects African-American voters, who have special protections under federal election law.

The Tennessee statute was championed by state Rep. Debra Maggard, R-Hendersonville, who said it appears the Justice Department is at least considering a challenge to the state law.

"I expect nothing less from the Obama administration," she said. "When Democrats can't win at the ballot box fair and square, they almost always resort to the courts."

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested that Republican officials are systematically trying to discourage voting by elderly, minority, young and poor citizens by changing state voting laws.

"We must remain ever vigilant in safeguarding our most basic and important right," Holder said. "Too many recent actions have the potential to reverse the progress that defines us."

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 bars any voting practice that discriminates be race, color and language.

The Justice Department rejected a South Carolina voter ID law based on its reading of that law. Without naming other states, the department officials have said in re cent weeks they are looking at other voter ID laws.

A local challenge is also possible.

Stanch, who is in private practice and who also serves as the general counsel to the Tennessee Democratic Party, said local lawyers are talking with "numerous individuals and groups" but declined to give specifics.

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