Brian Chilson
MIREYA REITH: Her lawsuit gets some encouragement from federal judge, if not the relief she sought.

A footnote to election day was a ruling by federal Judge Timothy Brooks on a last-minute lawsuit by an immigrants’ rights group that challenged a state law that prevents a person from providing assistance to more than six voters.

Arkansas United and its leader Mireya Reith said its workers planned to provide assistance to more than six people in Sebastian, Washington and Benton counties and had been threatened with prosecution under the statute if they did. Their aim was to help voters who need assistance because of language difficulties.

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The group asked for a temporary restraining order. Brooks denied that, because of the lateness of the request. He said it would have changed election procedures on election day.

But he said he found favor with the argument that the state statute was in conflict with the federal Voting Rights Act. He said the state law appears to conflict with the plain language of federal law that allows the voter a right to get assistance from a person of his or her choosing, as long as it’s not an employer or a union representative. Arkansas limits that right by allowing a person to assist more than six voters. Reith said her group wanted to help many more than that.

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Here’s the judge’s order.

It concludes: “The state may ultimately be prevented from prosecuting violations if the challenged statutes are indeed pre-empted by federal law, but the balance of equities favors maintainng the status quo through the final hours of Election Day.”

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