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Tennessee judge tosses challenge to state voter ID law

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A civil rights lawyer said on Thursday he may appeal a Tennessee judge's ruling that rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's voter identification law.

Two Memphis women who had sought to use library cards that include photographs during early voting for an August election, were not harmed and do not have the standing to challenge the law, Davidson County Judge Carol McCoy ruled on Wednesday.

The women and the city of Memphis were seeking a temporary injunction that would allow voters to cast ballots in the November 6 election without presenting state or federal photo identification.

George Barrett, a Nashville-based civil rights attorney who represented the women and the city, said his clients had not decided whether to pursue the matter farther.

Resolving a challenge before early voting starts in mid-October would likely require that the state Supreme Court take up the matter directly, Barrett said.

The women were given provisional ballots for the August election, which are not counted until after the elections closed, and had two business days to procure federal or state photographic identification, but did not, he said.

Barrett said the voting requirements are clear: proof of age, citizenship, residency and registration. Requiring a federal or state-issued photo ID unconstitutionally targets the economically disadvantaged, he said.

"If it has a cost, it's an impediment to voting. It's the same thing as a poll tax," Barrett said.

McCoy said during the hearing on Wednesday, however, that the voting process had evolved from those earlier requirements.

Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said the legislature's Republican majority has always maintained that the law was about protecting, not suppressing, rights.

"Our citizens deserve to know that their vote counts and the votes of felons, the deceased, illegal aliens and convicts in prisons do not," Ramsey said. "This decision is just one more in a series of vindications for photo ID."

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; editing by Todd Eastham; Editing by David Bailey)

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