The ACLU and APLC charge that the law violates the rights of voters as guaranteed by the Arkansas Constitution by impairing the right to vote and by impermissibly adding to the voting qualifications set out in the Constitution.
Several groups filed court papers in support of the voters’ case, including political science and law professors, social justice groups, and voter engagement organizations, outlining the lack of state legislative authority to pass a new qualification and emphasizing the impact on voters, from discouraging participation to creating impediments for voters in particular communities.
The law prohibits Arkansans from exercising their fundamental right to vote unless they present government‐approved photo ID. Based on national estimates, 10% of Arkansas voters lack the necessary ID. The law does not provide any assistance in helping voters obtain ID, such as transportation, payment for documents needed to obtain ID such as birth certificates, or aid in locating such documents.
"People who have been eligible to vote their entire adult lives have been blocked from voting by this unnecessary and unconstitutional law," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "The Arkansas Constitution specifically outlines the qualifications needed to vote. The state has made it harder for eligible voters to exercise their most fundamental right than our own Constitution requires or allows."
If voters do not have photo ID, they must first cast a provisional ballot, then make a separate trip to the county clerk and swear that they are too “indigent” to obtain ID, which the ACLU and APLC maintain is intimidating and a burden, as the law does not specify what is considered “indigent.”
The ACLU and the APLC challenged the Arkansas voter ID law in April of this year in state court on behalf of individual voters. The groups sought an order preventing the law from going into effect. The judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional and violated voting rights as protected by the Arkansas Constitution. The judge stayed his own ruling because a related case regarding absentee ballots was pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court and early voting was set to start for the primary within a few days. The state immediately appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“During the primary election, at least 1,064 registered Arkansas voters’ votes were not counted solely due to the ID law,” said Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas. “We have asked the trial court to lift the stay before the general election, while we defend the court’s decision on appeal, for fear that thousands more registered voters will lose their vote in the November elections.”
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