Voting Rights and College Students in Tennessee
From our partners at the Fair Elections Legal Network and their Campus Vote Project:
This morning the Fair Elections Legal Network and Nashville law firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC filed a federal lawsuit to compel Tennessee to accept college and university student ID cards at the polls. The suit is brought under the 14th and 26th Amendments to the Constitution and on behalf of the Nashville Student Organizing Committee, which has been fighting against the state’s strict voter ID law since it was formed, and nine students at Fisk University and Tennessee State University, both historically black institutions in Nashville.
Tennessee’s voter ID law was enacted in 2011, and in every year the General Assembly has consistently rejected attempts to add student IDs to the accepted voter ID list, even while it has, among other things: (1) allowed public college and university faculty and employee ID cards at the polls; (2) added public sector retirees’ ID cards to the voter ID list on a nearly unanimous vote; (3) for one of the limited absentee voting excuses, lowered the threshold age from 65 to 60, so that 60-to-64-year-olds possessing only a non-photo driver’s license could still vote absentee without needing to show or submit photo ID (absentee voting is by excuse only and exempt from the ID requirement); and (4) narrowed the list of acceptable photo IDs to exclude out-of-state IDs which are held by many out-of-state students and local IDs such as photographic library cards that the City of Memphis had issued. There is a lot more detail in the Complaint, which covers the entire legislative history of the law and related laws, as it pertains to the state’s efforts to suppress the student vote.