CITY OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE ET AL. v. TRE HARGETT, Secretary of State ET AL. - Articles

All Content


Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Feb 18, 2014

Head Comment: CORRECTION: The change is on page 14. Previously read: The Plaintiffs first assert that pursuant to article I, section 5, the photo ID requirement is facially unconstitutional, meaning "that no set of circumstances exist under which the Act would be valid." Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Inc. v. McWherter, 866 S.W.2d 520, 525 (Tenn. 1993). Now reads: The Plaintiffs first assert that pursuant to article I, section 5, the photo ID requirement is facially unconstitutional, meaning "'that no set of circumstances exist[s] under which the Act would be valid.'" Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Inc. v. McWherter, 866 S.W.2d 520, 525 (Tenn. 1993) (quoting United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745 (1987)).

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

William E. Young, Solicitor General; Steven A. Hart, Special Counsel; and Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General, for the appellants, Tre Hargett, Secretary of State; Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Mark Goins, State Coordinator of Elections, all in their official capacities.

Attorneys 2:

George E. Barrett and Douglas S. Johnston, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, and Herman Morris, Jr. and Regina Morrison Newman, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, City of Memphis, Tennessee, Daphne Turner-Golden, and Sullistine Bell.

Judge(s): WADE

In May of 2011, the General Assembly enacted a law providing, with certain exceptions, that all citizens who appear in person to vote must present photographic proof of their identity. The statute authorized a variety of acceptable forms of identification, one of which was a valid photographic identification card issued by an entity of the State of Tennessee. Prior to the August 2012 primary election, the City of Memphis Public Library issued photographic identification cards to its patrons. When two Shelby County residents attempted to vote in the primary using photographic library cards as means of identification, however, election officials declined to accept the cards as the requisite proof. The two residents and the City of Memphis filed a declaratory judgment action against the Secretary of State, the State Coordinator of Elections, and the Attorney General, arguing that the photographic identification requirement violated constitutional protections and that the City of Memphis qualified as an entity of the state authorized to issue valid photographic identification cards through its public library. The trial court denied relief on all counts, ruling first that the plaintiffs lacked standing and holding in the alternative that the photographic identification requirement did not violate the state constitution and that the City of Memphis did not qualify as an entity of the state. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that each plaintiff had standing to sue and that photographic identification cards issued by a municipal library complied with the statute for voting purposes, but also concluding that the photographic identification requirement did not violate constitutional principles. Following the grant of an application for permission to appeal, briefing, and oral argument, the General Assembly enacted amendments to the statute which, among other things, precluded the use of photographic identification cards issued by municipalities or their libraries for voting purposes. In light of these recent amendments, we hold that each issue in this appeal that pertains to the validity of the Memphis Public Library cards as photographic identification is now moot. We further hold that the City of Memphis lacks standing, and, although the two residents of Shelby County have standing to file a declaratory judgment action, the photographic identification requirement, both on its face and as applied in this instance, meets constitutional scrutiny. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals on the issue of constitutionality.