Lawyers in the lawsuit challenging the 2013 Arkansas voter ID law filed briefs today in support of Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s ruling that the law added unconstitutional additions to voter law.
The briefs by the ACLU and the Arkansas Public Law Center say the law illegally added qualification to those set out in the Constitution. Several groups filed papers in support of the case, including political science and law professors, social justice groups and others. They emphasize the impact on voters in discouraging voter participation by creating obstacles to the vote. Here’s the ACLU brief.
Some 10 percent of Arkansans lack the ID required by the law, which didn’t provide assistance for any to obtain the documents. The secretary of state’s office, charged with overseeing elections, spent virtually nothing on spreading information about the new law. Said an ACLU release:
“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.”
Judge Fox stayed his ruling in the days shortly before a primary election in which more than 1,000 absentee votes were disqualified for failure to include proper idea. The plaintiffs are asking that the stay be lifted for the general election. Otherwise, said ACLU legal counsel Holly Dickson, thousands more registered voters may lose the franchise in November.
Plaintiffs include a 78-year-old man who was never issued a birth certificate. State law requires three forms of ID before a delayed birth certificate will be issued. Two plaintiffs are women who cannot obtain a copy of their birth certificate because they do not have the required photo ID.
Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane also filed a brief in support of the lawsuit. He said existing registration and verification procedures are sufficient to prevent fraud.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU was among the groups joining the challenge to the law.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is defending the law. It noted 1) Arkansas’s “long history of zealously limiting interference with its citizens’ fundamental right to vote: 2) how harsh photo ID laws raise the cost of voting, drive down participation and disproportinately exclude poor people; 3) in-person voter impersonation fraud, which the law is supposed to prevent, is “virtually non-existent.”