Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin has asked the state Supreme Court to stay a recent injunction from a trial court judge that blocked enforcement of the state’s voter ID law and requests the order come “no later than noon Friday, May 4.”
Arkansas primary elections will be held May 22, and the motion from Martin’s office notes early voting begins as soon as May 7 and some overseas absentee ballots must be sent out with instructions by the end of this week.
The state’s current voter ID law passed the state legislature in 2017; it replaced an earlier law that the state Supreme Court struck down in 2014. When the court issued its 2014 decision, the seven justices were unanimous in saying the law should be thrown
The majority opinion, written by now-deceased Justice Donald Corbin, said requiring a photo ID amounted to a new qualification for voting, which would be impermissible under the Arkansas Constitution. But none of the four justices who held that view still sit on the court. The three justices who were on the court in 2014 and who remain there today instead wrote a concurring opinion that said the voter ID law was invalid for procedural reasons: When the law passed the legislature in 2013, it did so by a simple majority rather than the two-thirds supermajority required to alter constitutional amendments. That opinion, authored by Associate Justice Courtney Goodson, said the legislative misstep was enough to throw out the law without getting into the more substantive question of whether it constitutes a new barrier to voting. (Justices Karen Baker and Jo Hart joined Goodson.)
Martin’s request for a stay of Judge Gray’s injunction makes little mention of the majority opinion in the 2014 case, but it repeatedly references the concurring opinion. When the replacement law passed in 2017, Republican legislators were careful to secure a two-thirds majority in both chambers. The question is whether that will be enough for the Supreme Court in its current form.