Tennessee AG says photo ID bill likely unconstitutional

Tennessee AG says photo ID bill likely unconstitutional

April 13th, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

NASHVILLE - In a just-released legal opinion, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper says courts would "likely" rule as unconstitutional a proposed law that requires voters to present qualified photo identification before casting their ballots.

The problem, Cooper says in his seven-page opinion, is the bill makes no provision for free government photo IDs, such as a driver's license. Courts would probably interpret that as a "poll tax" that "unduly burdens" those who cannot afford such ID, Cooper wrote.

Cooper said it would probably violated the U.S. Constitution's 24th Amendment with respect to federal elections and the Equal Protection Clause with regard to state and local elections.

In addition, he said, a state court would find it also violates the Tennessee Constitution because of a provision that confers protections similar to the Equal Protection Clause.

House and Senate Democratic leaders sought the opinion on the Republican-backed bill which passed the GOP-controlled Senate and is awaiting action in the House.