Nashville, TN – With early voting under way, lawyers for the City of Memphis headed to Nashville on Thursday in a bid to up the ante over the Tennessee’s new Voter Identification law.
“I believe this is the single most important case I've ever argued in a court.” Said George Barrett, a civil rights attorney who joined the city in arguing the ID law is unconstitutional.
“This law this statute, effects, minorities, and poor folks.” he added. “It is just not constitutional.”
Thursday’s hearing came after a Nashville judge sided with the State last month regarding the law. After the ruling, lawyers for the city filed for an emergency appeal, citing early voting, which started Wednesday.
The city contends the photo ID requirement is unconstitutional because it is in addition to 4 requirements already laid-out, including that the voter must be 18-years-old and live in the State and County for which he or she is registered.
“There is just nothing on the record that this is oppressive.” said Janet Kleinfelter, a lawyer for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office told the judges.
“There is just no evidence in this record that this condition the photo I'd is oppressive or impossible.” She added.
The city wants the Appeals court to overturn the law until the State comes up with a way to get everyone a free photo ID. The city argued at the very least, voters should be allowed to use their photo library cards, arguing it is harder to obtain them, and requires more verification, then other forms of acceptable identification at the polls.
“Yesterday, we had 120k people vote early the first day, so. If there is voter suppression going on, somebody is forgetting to tell the voters. They are voting with their feet.” said Mark Goins, the Coordinator for Elections for the State of Tennessee.
Goins says his poll workers are trained on current laws, and any change to the Voter ID law could cause confusion and possibly even chaos.
“We have trained thousands of poll officials that this is how to identify a voter, so the issues we will be faced with is the toothpaste is already out of the tube so to speak. How do you put it back in? How do you train these thousands of workers.” Goins said. “How do you go back in and reinvent the process.”
“You can imagine 95 counties trying to get the word out.” he added.
There is some precedence of judges overturning Voter ID laws. So far this year, judges in South Carolina and Pennsylvania have ruled states have not done enough to ensure voters could get a photo ID.
Thursday’s hearing lasted more than an hour. The judges adorned the courtroom without indicating a timeline on when they may rule.