Hearing set on voter ID law challenge; Mark Martin defends law | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hearing set on voter ID law challenge; Mark Martin defends law

Posted By on Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 8:33 AM

click to enlarge MARK MARTIN: Defends new voter ID law.
  • MARK MARTIN: Defends new voter ID law.
Circuit Judge Alice Gray has set a hearing March 12 on a lawsuit that asks that she enjoin use of the state's new voter ID law in the May primary elections.

A public interest lawsuit with Barry Haas as plaintiff and Jeff Priebe his attorney argues that the new law remains unconstitutional, as the Arkansas Supreme Court held in a 2014 case advanced by Priebe on a previous version of the law requiring a photo ID to vote. The 2017 legislature tinkered with the language to make the law change appear to apply to voter registration procedures, which are covered in a separate part of the Constitution, but the lawsuit argues that the law still presents a new obstacle to voting, which the Constitution prohibits.

The membership of the Arkansas Supreme Court has changed dramatically since the last ruling, however.

Last week, Secretary of State Mark Martin, a defendant in the case filed his response to the lawsuit. Her rests his response on a three-judge concurring opinion written in the earlier case by justices remaining on the court, Courtney Goodson, Karen Baker and Josephine Hart. They didn't reach the constitutional question of whether the law was a new bar to voting, but merely said the law had failed to achieve the required super-majority vote to amend the Constitution. This law did get the required vote, he noted. And he argues it is about a system of registration, not about voting. He argues, effectively, that Amendment 51 on registration procedure overrides the Constitution's original statement that only age, residency, citizenship and voter registration are the only standards to vote. The four justices who ruled substantively — Jim Hannah, Paul Danielson, Cliff Hoofman and Donald Corbin — are no longer on the court. They' been replaced by Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justices Robin Wynne, Rhonda Wood and Shawn Womack. Womack is a former Republican senator whose party has long supported voter ID laws as a means to suppress minority votes. Rhonda Wood campaigned for office with backing of former Republican Mike Huckabee and campaigned heavily at Republican county committee meetings. The current court also has already demonstrated it is willing to overturn precedent, as in the recent sovereign immunity ruling. Voter ID laws are pushed as a means to prohibit voter ID fraud, a happenstance that is virtually unheard of according to numerous studies. Proof of identity is required to register to vote and the signature on registration is checked at polls on voting day. Voters may also be asked to show an ID, but are not required to produce it. Poll workers with doubts may require a voter to cast a provisional ballot.

Note in passing: Martin's answer indicates his webpage on voting requirements was out of date until this suit was filed. He provided an updated version to respond to the page used in the lawsuit. Martin argued the plaintiff had shown no potential for harm if the new ID rule is used (the case will argue that eligible voters have been denied the ballot because of the rule in the past) and said there will be harm to the election process if the law is enjoined "in the middle of an election." The hearing is set before early voting begins May 1.

Here's Martin's reply to the lawsuit.

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