Turner-Golden v. Hargett

Decision Date03 August 2012
Docket NumberCivil No. 3:12-cv-00765
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee
PartiesDAPHNE TURNER-GOLDEN AND SULLISTINE BELL, Citizens and Residents of Memphis, Tennessee, And CITY OF MEMPHIS, Plaintiffs, v. TRE HARGETT, Secretary of State, MARK GOINS, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections, Defendants.

Judge Aleta A. Trauger


On July 26, 2012, the plaintiffs filed a Second Application for Preliminary Injunction (Docket No. 11), on which the court held a hearing on July 31, 2012 (hereinafter, "PI Hearing"). Given the time sensitivity of the issues presented, the court ruled from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing and denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. This Memorandum further explains the court's reasoning.

I. Factual Background

In 2011, the State of Tennessee enacted new voter registration requirements, codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-112, which, for the first time, imposed a photo identification ("photo ID") requirement on Tennessee residents seeking to vote. This Tennessee voter identification law (hereinafter, "TVIDL") specifies certain categories of photo IDs that satisfy this requirement, including, inter alia, "a valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency or entityof this state, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification." Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-112(c) (2012).

According to the plaintiffs, approximately 390,000 voters do not have a photo ID that complies with the TVIDL, and only a fraction of those voters have obtained photo IDs since passage of the law. For example, as of the TVIDL's passage, 126,000 individuals over the age of 60 possessed driver's licenses without a photo and, therefore, were unable to vote under the current law, unless and until they obtained a photo ID consistent with § 2-7-112(c). Of these 126,000 individuals, fewer than 21,000 have since obtained a photo ID from the Tennessee Department of Safety ("DOS").

In an effort to address this disparity, on July 5, 2012, the City of Memphis Public Library system ("MPL") instituted a new program for its patrons, under which it began issuing library cards with a photo ID.1 Under the program, residents can either continue to use their old library ID cards, which did not contain a photo, or they can obtain a new MPL library card with a photo (hereinafter, "MPL Photo ID Card"). To obtain MPL Photo ID Cards, residents are required to present forms of identification that comply with the requirements for obtaining a driver's license in the State of Nebraska. Residents of Memphis, Bartlett, and unincorporated Shelby County can obtain the cards free of charge. Between its inception and the date of the PI Hearing, the MPL issued approximately 1,100 MPL Photo ID Cards.

Plaintiffs Daphne Taylor-Golden and Sullistine Bell are two senior citizens of Memphis who are registered to vote. Both obtained MPL Photo ID Cards in advance of the August 2, 2012election. Before obtaining her new card, Taylor-Golden had been issued a photo ID by the DOS on January 18, 2012; however, just weeks before the election, Taylor-Golden's purse, which contained that card, was stolen. Before obtaining her new card, Bell possessed only a non-photo driver's license issued by the DOS.2

After ascertaining that the MPL had been issuing photo identification cards, defendants Mark Goins, the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections, and Tre Hargett, the Tennessee Secretary of State, informed the Shelby County Election Commission that the MPL Photo ID Cards were not acceptable under the TVIDL and, therefore, directed the Commission not to accept these cards from potential voters. When Taylor-Golden and Bell appeared at local polling stations to cast advance ballots in the August 2, 2012 election,3 polling officials, in compliance with the defendants' instructions, refused to permit Taylor-Golden and Bell to cast regular ballots. They did, however, permit Taylor-Golden and Bell to cast provisional ballots, which are segregated from regular ballots.

At the PI Hearing, the defendants pointed out that (1) Taylor-Golden and Bell, as citizens over the age of 60, could have cast absentee ballots in advance of the election pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-6-201(5) (2012), although their time frame for doing so had closed by the date of the hearing; and (2) because Taylor-Golden and Bell were both already on file with the DOS, they could have obtained a free photo ID in advance of the election from the DOS after completing an application and signing an affidavit, without providing additional documentation.(See., e.g., Docket No. 17, Ex. 1, Dodd Decl. ¶ 7.) II. Procedural History

Taylor-Golden, Bell, and the City of Memphis have filed suit against the defendants in their official capacities only, alleging that the defendants' instructions to the Shelby County Election Commission not to accept the MPL Photo ID Cards violated (1) the plaintiffs' rights under the United States Constitution, Art. I, § 2 and the Tennessee Constitution, Art. I, § 5, actionable under § 1983 (Count I); and (2) the plaintiffs' rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and Articles I, § 5 and IV of the Tennessee Constitution (Count II).4

Taylor-Golden and the City of Memphis filed the original Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief on July 24, 2012 (Docket No. 1), along with a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (Docket No. 2). On July 25, 2012, District Judge Kevin H. Sharp held a hearing on that motion, at which he denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order and deferred a ruling on the preliminary injunction request until this judge, to whom the case was assigned, could hold a further hearing.

On July 26, 2012, the court ordered the plaintiffs to file any further request for a preliminary injunction by motion and ordered the parties to submit briefing on certain designated issues in advance of any hearing scheduled by the court. (Docket No. 10.) The plaintiffs accordingly filed the instant Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Docket No. 11), insupport of which they filed a Memorandum (Docket No. 19), various exhibits (id., Exs. A and B; Docket No. 20), and eleven affidavits (Docket Nos. 21-27, 29-32).5 The plaintiffs also filed a First Amended Complaint, which added Bell as a plaintiff and added or amended certain allegations. In opposition to the plaintiffs' motion, the defendants filed a Response (Docket No. 16) and supporting exhibits (Docket No. 17), including the Declaration of Tennessee Division of Elections Staff Attorney Andrew Dodd (id., Ex. 1) and the Declaration of Mark Goins (id., Ex. 5), both of which attached multiple exhibits.6

After receiving the parties' submissions, the court ordered the parties to brief two additional issues (Docket No. 35), which they did. (Docket Nos. 37 and 38.) The defendants also filed the Supplemental Declaration of Andrew W. Dodd (Docket No. 31, Attachment 1), which responded to the addition of Bell as a plaintiff in the First Amended Complaint and the Affidavit of Ora Lee Sanders that the plaintiffs had filed in support of their motion.

On July 31, 2012, the court held a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, the plaintiffs clarified that they were only pursuing an "as applied" challenge to the defendants' actions with regard to § 2-7-112(c), not a facial challenge to the TVIDL itself. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court, ruling from the bench, denied the motion, informing the parties that it would issue a written opinion further articulating the basis for its decision.


Preliminary injunctions are governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a) and are considered preventive, prohibitory, or protective measures taken pending resolution on the merits. See Clemons v. Bd. of Educ., 228 F.2d 853, 856 (6th Cir. 1956). Preliminary injunctions are considered extraordinary relief, the issuance of which requires great caution, deliberation, and sound discretion. Detroit Newspaper Publishers Ass'n v. Detroit Typographical Union No. 18, Int'l Typographical Union, 471 F.2d 872, 876 (6th Cir. 1972).

In determining whether to grant the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, the court must consider: (1) the plaintiffs' likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case; (2) whether the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted; (3) whether granting the injunction will cause potential harm to others; and (4) the impact of the injunction upon the public interest. Leary v. Daeschner, 228 F.3d 729, 736 (6th Cir. 2000); Parker v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 879 F.2d 1362, 1367 (6th Cir. 1989);Mason Cnty. Med. Ass'n. v. Knebel, 563 F.2d 256, 261 (6th Cir. 1977). The factors "do not establish a rigid and comprehensive test for determining the appropriateness of preliminary injunctive relief," Frisch's Rest., Inc. v. Shoney's Inc., 759 F.2d 1261, 1263 (6th Cir. 1984), nor is any one factor controlling. Gonzales v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 225 F.3d 620, 625 (6th Cir. 2000).

I. Overview

The defendants have argued that the plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunction should be denied on both jurisdictional and substantive grounds. Because of the presence of a federal constitutional concern-the fundamental right to vote - and the time sensitivity of the issues presented, the court has assumed, for purposes of ruling on the motion, that it has federalquestion jurisdiction over this case and addresses the motion on its merits.7

Although the plaintiffs' legal theories are not a model of clarity, the court interprets the gravamen of the plaintiffs' claims as alleging that the defendants applied the TVIDL in a manner that impinged on their fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection and/or Due Process Clauses and the Tennessee Constitution.8 The parties' central dispute...

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