NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Attorneys for two Memphis voters told a panel of the state Appeals Court on Thursday that they should strike down a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls because it disenfranchises voters.
"This law, this statute, effects the young, minorities and poor folks," said attorney George Barrett, who represents two Memphis women who lack state-issued photo identification. The suit says their provisional votes in the August primary were not counted.
Barrett told the court that the new law violates the state constitution, which lists the requirements to vote as proof of age, citizenship, residency and registration.
"We're dealing with the most basic right our citizens have and that is the right to vote," he said. "Without that right, every other right goes away."
Barrett said one of the plaintiffs is "a grandmother with two grandchildren in her custody, one of them a special-needs child. She hasn't been employed for over a year and has exhausted her unemployment benefits."
He said requiring her to obtain a photo ID from a driver's license station was oppressive.
Janet Kleinfelter, with the Attorney General's office, argued the new law is not oppressive and is a reasonable way to ensure the integrity of the ballot box.
Kleinfelter said that the measure inspires public confidence in the vote.
"That encourages participation, which is borne out by the evidence of increased voter turnout."
The plaintiffs hope the court will declare the law unconstitutional, but as an alternative, they want the court to declare that a photo ID from the Memphis public library system is adequate to vote.
The law refers to identification issued by entities of the state. Attorneys for Memphis argued that the city is an entity of the state.
They also said that the requirements to obtain a library ID are more stringent than those to obtain some other photo IDs that are valid under the law.
Kleinfelter argued that the law applies only to entities that are part of the state government and does not include local governments.
After the hearing, Elections Coordinator Mark Goins defended the new law.
"People have confidence in voting now," he said. And he said that if the court were to strike it down in the middle of the election, it would create problems. Early voting started Wednesday and Election Day is November 6.
Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris said the state constitution requires that maximum voter participation be encouraged.
"I'm shocked the state Attorney General isn't arguing as hard as he can to make voting easier."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:04 AM EDT2013-05-22 04:04:23 GMT
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