Additional pleadings have been filed in the citizen’s lawsuit challenging the new Arkansas voter ID law that includes evidence the new law resulted in votes in a recent special election in Russellville not being counted.

The 2017 law was passed after an earlier Arkansas Supreme Court ruling said the addition of a required photo ID to vote was an unconstitutional new barrier to voting. Thanks to that case, evidence has been compiled by the ACLU showing that more than 1,000 registered voters did not have votes counted because of the law.

The new law tries to skirt that decision by calling the voter ID provision part of a new registration process allowed by the state Constitution. Its defenders argue that the law provides a way to cast a vote without an ID.

Jeff Priebe, attorney for plaintiff Barry Haas, noted in a pleading Friday that the new law had already invalidated votes in a small special Republican primary election in Pope County. He said one regular vote and one absentee ballot were not counted, according to records from the county clerk’s office.”

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Wrote Priebe: “The effect of Act 633, just like the effect of Voter ID in 2014, is
being felt – the votes of registered voters in Arkansas are not and will not be counted.”

Haas has said he will not comply with the law when it’s time to vote and the state has challenged his standing. But Priebe argues he has standing because the law requires both a photo ID and signing of a sworn statement.

“However, the Arkansas Supreme Court has previously confirmed that both of these
actions violate the Arkansas Constitution.  In order to establish standing, Plaintiff is only required to demonstrate that he is within the class of persons affected by the statute. Thus, Plaintiff only had to show that he was a registered voter and/or was qualified to vote. “

Priebe also answered the state’s attempt to raise sovereign immunity as a bar to Haas’ lawsuit.

The argument by Separate Defendants Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, through the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, regarding sovereign immunity is illogical. According to Separate Defendants Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, through the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, the State of Arkansas could never be questioned or brought into a state court even though the State may take away a guaranteed constitutional right – the right to vote. According to that logic, the State of Arkansas can take away all constitutional rights (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, right to trial by jury, etc.) and the citizens of Arkansas would have no recourse. This is not the argument or logic found in the Andrews decision. 

Priebe said the new law’s provision of the ability to legitimize a provisional ballot by returning to the clerk’s office by the Monday following an election is an unconstitutional burden.

If a registered voter does not provide photo identification which satisfies the “verification of registration” requirement or fails to provide an appropriate sworn statement when casting an absentee ballot, the absentee ballot will be considered a provisional ballot and the registered absentee voter is then required to return by Monday following the election and present the required photo identification in order to satisfy the “verification of registration” requirement in Act 633 of 2017.

The “verification of registration” requirement contained in Act 633 of 2017 is not an actual verification of a registered voter’s registration as the voter has already verified his or her registration when he or she provides his or her name, address, and date of birth to the poll worker. The “verification of registration” requirement contained in Act 633 of 2017 is not an actual verification of a registered voter’s registration as the registered voter does not have to provide photo identification when registering to vote in Arkansas. In fact, the “verification of registration” is not even used to confirm voter registration and does not contain voter registration information.

Judge Alice Gray is considering a request for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law in coming elections.

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Among other arguments, the secretary of state’s office has argued the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Priebe says that the office has produced no evidence identity fraud has ever occurred in Arkansas.

Priebe’s filing included exhibits from Pope County showing questions about the application of the new law and ultimate decisions not to count two ballots where new ID requirements had not been met.