Lawmakers to Be Deposed in Tenn. Student ID Suit

     (CN) – One former and three current Tennessee state legislators must give depositions in a student voting rights case, a federal judge ruled.
     A group of college students sued Tennessee election officials in March, claiming the state’s exclusion of student IDs and out-of-state IDs at the polls is unconstitutional.
     The class action lawsuit, filed by the Nashville Student Organizing Committee and nine college students, said out-of-state students must either forgo voting, vote absentee in their home state, or apply for a new ID. “The voter ID law clearly favors in-state student voters over out-of-state student voters,” according to the March complaint.
     The Nashville Student Organizing Committee and student-plaintiffs served deposition subpoenas on Tennessee Sen. Bill Ketron, Reps. Susan Lynn and Curry Todd, and former state legislator Joe Carr.
     They want to depose the four lawmakers on topics related to the state voter ID law, including legislative deliberation over the policy and their understanding of it, this week’s ruling states.
     U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger denied the former and current legislators’ motion to quash the subpoenas on Wednesday, ruling that their depositions are allowable.
     “This litigation involves a serious constitutional issue: whether Tennessee passed a law intended to suppress the voting rights of Tennessee college students,” she wrote. “The issues presented also implicate – as do redistricting cases – the potential that a majority political party has attempted to entrench its own power by limiting the ability of certain voters to influence (or, here, participate in) the election process. The government’s conduct is squarely at issue, and, at least at this point, it does not appear that conducting the depositions would have a chilling effect on frank deliberations on public policy matters.”
     The judge ordered that the student group can proceed with depositions but the transcripts must be filed under seal for court review. The plaintiffs themselves cannot attend the depositions and the transcripts shall be treated as “attorneys eyes only” documents, according to the ruling.
     “Although the depositions will proceed, the court specifically reserves decision as to which, if any, of the topics covered in the deposition will result in admissible testimony,” Trauger wrote. “The plaintiffs’ attorneys are specifically advised that the deposition testimony shall not be disseminated to the plaintiffs, the press, or anyone else. The subject matter of the testimony is highly sensitive and potentially privileged, at least in part.”

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