NASHVILLE - A judge in Nashville has held Tennessee's voter identification statute constitutional.
The Tennessean reported the ruling by Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy came Wednesday.
After about three hours of oral arguments, McCoy ruled against civil rights attorney George Barrett, who contended the state constitution requires only proof of legal age, residency and registration.
"It's an unconstitutional impediment on the right to vote," Barrett said during oral arguments. "Without the right to vote, all other rights are meaningless."
In delivering her ruling, McCoy said voting procedures have evolved over the years and the legislature can enact laws that secure what she termed "the purity of the ballot box."
Barrett filed the lawsuit on behalf of the city of Memphis and two women who live there. He had asked for an injunction to let residents vote in November without proof of ID.
By Barrett's calculation, as many 390,000 registered voters in Tennessee don't have a photo identification card acceptable under the new state statute. The lawsuit claimed about 105,000 of them are 60 or older.
Barrett's co-counsel, Douglas Johnston, argued the legislature's motivation in passing the law was to suppress minority participation in the November election.
The Commercial Appeal reported Johnston argued state legislatures in about a dozen states have enacted photo requirements "because in 2008, African-Americans and young people and poor people came out in droves to vote. These are the people who these laws most impact."
McCoy ruled that the city had no legal standing because it could not claim the statute caused the municipality harm. She further ruled that plaintiffs Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell can vote in the Nov. 6 election by obtaining photo IDs.
The lawsuit was the second attempt by Barrett to get a ruling against the statute.
He earlier filed suit in U.S. District Court against Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state Election Coordinator Mark Goins, claiming that photo IDs issued at no cost by the Memphis public library should be considered legitimate identification.
When the court rejected that argument, Barrett withdrew the lawsuit and filed suit in state court.
McCoy said she was obliged to measure the statute against the state constitution and concluded it was not a constitutional violation. Still, she confided she dislikes it.
"If it were left up to me, I'd strike the law down." McCoy said.