TN Media Kit

Earlier this year Fair Elections Legal Network and Nashville law firm, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law as violating the voting rights of Tennessee students. The state’s voter ID law allows voters to use public college and university faculty and employee ID cards but not student ID cards issued by the same institutions. Below is some information on the suit as well as other resources. Check back for updates as the case progresses.

UPDATE: December 21, 2015 – Case dismissed. Press release below:

Federal Judge Dismisses Tennessee Student Voting Rights Case

Washington, DC – Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger granted the State of Tennessee’s motion to dismiss the federal case challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law. The Court relied on the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, arguing this foreclosed plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination against college and university student voters.

The plaintiffs – the Nashville Student Organizing Committee (NSOC) and seven students from Fisk University, Belmont University and Tennessee State University – claimed that Tennessee’s voter ID law discriminated against them on account of their age in violation of the 26th Amendment and discriminated against public college and university students by excluding their student ID cards from the list of accepted voter IDs while permitting faculty and staff ID cards from the same institutions.

The case was litigated since March 2015. Discovery had been ongoing when the Tennessee Attorney General’s office filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. The Court suspended all discovery pending a ruling on the motion to dismiss. Previously on August 12, 2015, the Court issued a ruling allowing depositions of state legislators to go forward, over their legislative privilege objections.

“If this ruling stands, it is further proof that voting rights law – weakened over the years by Supreme Court decisions and Congressional inaction – fails to protect against even this obvious discriminatory behavior by Tennessee state legislators,” said Jon Sherman, Counsel at the Fair Elections Legal Network. “Tennessee’s state legislators successfully used the voter ID law to skew the electorate in favor of older voters and against younger voters, as confirmed by a federal government study, and yet, our clients have been denied their day in court to prove this.”

“We are obviously disappointed with the Court’s decision which we believe is wrong,” Douglas Johnston, a partner at Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. “We will be spending some time discussing next steps with our clients.”

No decision has been made about whether to appeal the Court’s ruling. A trial was originally scheduled for early September 2016.

Background

Earlier this year, a federal lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Nashville challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law as violating the voting rights of Tennessee college and university students. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student organization and nine college students by the Fair Elections Legal Network, a national voting rights organization, and Nashville law firm, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the current voter ID law violates the 14th Amendment and 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against college students by excluding student ID cards from the list of accepted voter IDs.

Since 2011, the Tennessee General Assembly has consistently made it harder for young college students to vote, while making it easier for older voters to comply with or avoid the ID requirement entirely. The voter ID law allows voters to use public college and university faculty and employee ID cards but not student ID cards issued by the same institutions. The suit alleges legislators have purposely singled out students, particularly out-of-state students, in order to discourage them from voting in Tennessee, as is their right.

This case asks that college and university student ID cards be added to the list of accepted voter IDs.  Of the states that have recently adopted strict photo voter ID laws, only Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina refuse to accept student IDs.

The plaintiffs include the Nashville Student Organizing Committee (NSOC), a student-run social justice organization that has long advocated for making student IDs an accepted form of voter ID, and seven individual students from public and private colleges and universities in Tennessee, including Fisk University and Tennessee State University, both historically black institutions in Nashville, as well as Belmont University.

The First Amended Complaint is available here: http://fairelectionsnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/NSOC-v.-Hargett-First-Amended-Complaint.pdf.

UPDATE: December 1, 2015 – Details on the status of the case have been reported in The Tennessean.

UPDATE: On September 9, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint. That amended complaint is here. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2015

 

For more information contact

Kristen Muthig

(o) 202-331-0114

(c) 419-706-3431

kmuthig@fairelectionsnetwork.com

Student Voting Rights Case Filed In Tennessee

Voter ID Law Discriminates Against College Students and Violates U.S. Constitution

Washington, DC – A federal lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court in Nashville challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law as violating the voting rights of Tennessee college and university students. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student organization and nine college students by the Fair Elections Legal Network, a national voting rights organization, and Nashville law firm, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the current voter ID law violates the 14th Amendment and 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against college students by excluding student ID cards from the list of accepted voter IDs.

Since 2011, the Tennessee General Assembly has consistently made it harder for young college students to vote, while making it easier for older voters to comply with or avoid the ID requirement entirely. The voter ID law allows voters to use public college and university faculty and employee ID cards but not student ID cards issued by the same institutions. The suit alleges legislators have purposely singled out students, particularly out-of-state students, in order to discourage them from voting in Tennessee, as is their right.

This case asks that college and university student ID cards be added to the list of accepted voter IDs.  Of the states that have recently adopted strict photo voter ID laws, only Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina, as well as North Carolina beginning in 2016, refuse to accept student IDs.

The plaintiffs include the Nashville Student Organizing Committee (NSOC), a student-run social justice organization that has long advocated for making student IDs an accepted form of voter ID, and nine individual students from public and private colleges and universities in Tennessee, including Fisk University and Tennessee State University, both historically black institutions in Nashville.

The suit’s organizational plaintiff NSOC released the following statement: “In this time of reflection and commemoration of the Selma March for voting rights, the Nashville Student Organizing Committee is continuing the efforts started 50 years ago by challenging Tennessee’s regressive voter ID law that seeks to silence us as students.  Voting is a moral imperative, and it is our hope that this case will create lasting change.”

”For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote,” said Jon Sherman, staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network. “This case will demonstrate that when politicians tinker with a voter ID list to pick their preferred voters, they violate the Constitution and the most basic aspirations of our democracy.”

“For more than five decades, this law firm has battled to ensure the civil rights of all are respected and honored. The voter ID law is just the latest version of a long line of official attempts to suppress voters,” said Douglas S. Johnston, Jr. of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison LLC. “I look forward to joining the battle to undo this attempt to curb the voting rights of young people.”

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Full complaint here.

Other Resources:

CVP General Description

2015 FELN Backgrounder

Tennessee Student Voting Guide

Getting a Student ID Infographic