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Green Party sues over voter ID law

7:56 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
John A. Gillis/DNJ Steve Blankenship holds his driver's license with his picture that he recently got for the state's new voter ID law Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. Blakenship had used a license without a photo.
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By Michael Cass / The Tennessean

The Green Party of Tennessee has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to throw out Tennessee's voter ID law, calling it unconstitutional and unfair to minority voters.

Alan Woodruff, an attorney in Gray, Tenn., who has represented the Green Party in previous lawsuits, said he filed the complaint Monday morning in the Eastern District of Tennessee. It names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants.

"There is no justification for having the photo ID requirement, as there is no such thing as voter fraud," said Woodruff, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year as the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District and might run again in 2014. "It's overly burdensome. It affects minorities and the progressive-leaning voter more than the typical Republican conservative, and it was intended to."

Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for Hargett and Goins, said he had not seen the lawsuit Monday afternoon and was unable to comment.

The General Assembly passed the voter identification law in 2011, requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. It took effect in January 2012. Republicans say the law discourages voter fraud, which Democrats describe as extremely rare.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld the new requirement in a state lawsuit last fall. It ruled that the state legislature has the right to pass laws that protect "the purity of the ballot box" and that asking for photo ID at the polls does not add a new requirement to voting.

The Green Party of Tennessee and the Constitution Party of Tennessee filed a suit in federal court in 2011 arguing that the state's election laws present an insurmountable hurdle to third-party candidates who want to see their party affiliation on the ballot.

U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. granted the plaintiffs summary judgment in June of this year, ruling that state election laws violated not only smaller parties' First Amendment right "to associate as a political party" but also the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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