By Chas Sisk | The Tennessean
A Nashville court has agreed to hear an appeal of the state's new voter identification law amid questions about the law's validity in other states.
The Court of Appeals set oral arguments for Oct. 18 -- one day after early voting begins in Tennessee -- in a suit filed by the city of Memphis challenging the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls.
Opponents of the law say it disenfranchises poor, young and elderly voters who are less likely to have driver's licenses. Defenders say the requirement guards against voter fraud and protects the integrity of elections.
Memphis and two voters from that city sued the state this summer after Memphis election officials were told voters could not use a newly-issued library card that bore the holder's picture at the polls. But Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled late last month that the plaintiffs in the suit had not shown they had been harmed by the law.
The plaintiffs have asked the full appeals court to hear the case as soon as possible. They calculate that as many as 390,000 registered voters in Tennessee lack a picture ID card, including roughly 105,000 voters 60 or older.
Election officials say the number is likely far lower, noting that any form of ID issued by state or federal government is acceptable at the polls, even if it comes from outside Tennessee or has expired.
Many states have passed voter ID laws in recent years, triggering a wave of litigation around the country. Judges in South Carolina and Pennsylvania have blocked enforcement the voter ID requirements this year, ruling officials had not done enough to ensure such laws would not have a discriminatory effect on voters.