MEDIA ADVISORY: From the Memphis City Attorney, Herman Morris – Regarding Voter ID Law and New Library Photo ID Card

July 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Fair Elections, Recent Blog Posts

Memphis City Attorney Herman MorrisThe Memphis Daily News is reporting that Tennessee State Election Coordinator, Mark Goins, has said that new library cards issued by the City of Memphis “are not valid for voter identification.” His statement comes 24-hours after “The Memphis library system unveiled the move to the photo library cards last week with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. saying the new library cards could be used to vote starting with the upcoming Aug. 2 elections.”

Memphis City Attorney, Herman Morris, Jr. sent out the following Media Advisory stating that they do not support “the new State requirement that challenges voters to produce a photo ID to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote.”

The Administration of the City of Memphis does not support the new State requirement that challenges voters to produce a photo ID to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote. Nor are we convinced of the constitutional validity of the Voter ID law passed last year by the Tennessee Legislature. We do, however, wish to provide citizens all legally appropriate and accessible opportunities to meet the requirements of the law, while it exists.

The issuance of photo ID cards through the Memphis library system allows citizens to voluntarily obtain a free photo ID at a library in or near their own neighborhood. Library cards have always been a key to open the door to knowledge. Along with all the other benefits of possessing a library card including being able to borrow the libraries’ treasures, books, and utilize computers and facilities on a daily basis to access the world. It is the opinion of the City Attorney that these photo ID cards, issued by a “State entity” – namely the library system – are valid as voter IDs under the terms of the Voter ID law passed by the Legislature.

We stand by our opinion that the new photo library card satisfies TCA 2-7-112.

There is nothing more precious in a democracy than the right to vote. All through history there have been efforts by those who would seek to make voting more difficult or to deny citizens the right to vote by poll taxes, poll tests and even fear. Regrettably these efforts exist up through today. The new library photo ID card is the City of Memphis’ response to meet these regrettable efforts head-on and to make the vote accessible to all citizens. It is regrettable that those charged in carrying out our elections seem set on denying the opportunity to the citizens to use this additional equally legal, more convenient and accessible means of satisfying the new photo ID requirement. This card, always a passport to knowledge, now provides new benefits including a photo ID for voting. It satisfies the law and in our opinion; no one utilizing it for voting purposes should be challenged.

A copy of the legal opinion on this issue is attached.

Questions may be referred to herman.morris@memphistn.gov or call: 901-636-6614, the City Attorney’s Office.

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