Voter ID law before the Arkansas Supreme Court | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Voter ID law before the Arkansas Supreme Court

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 12:21 PM

CHALLENGING ID LAW: Jeff Priebe, lawyer for plaintff.
  • CHALLENGING ID LAW: Jeff Priebe, lawyer for plaintff.
The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on the state's appeal of a ruling invalidating the voter ID law passed in 2017.

Judge Alice Gray enjoined the law as an unconstitutional addition of a restriction on voting, but the Supreme Court earlier stayed that order and the law was put in place in primary voting.

Jeff Priebe, attorney for the plaintiff, Barry Haas, in a public interest lawsuit, argued that the 2017 law was an attempt to circumvent a similar law passed in 2014 that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court. A change was made that allowed voters who didn't have an ID to cast a provisional ballot and sign an affidavit and the vote is supposed to be counted unless other problems are found.

The case may end up being only about this year's general election. The reason: A constitutional amendment is on the ballot in November that changes the document so that voter ID is clearly allowable. The ID laws have been proposed around the country by Republicans in the name of combatting voter fraud. No meaningful voter fraud has been found anywhere, but studies have found that the ID requirement has discouraged voting, particularly among minority voters.

Priebe argued that the law ran counter to an amendment aimed at opening, not restricting, access to the polls. A registered 18-year-old is eligible to vote, he says. He rejected the argument that the ID requirement is just an extension of registration because it's a rule imposed after registration, at the time of voting.  It's an infringement on the free right of suffrage, he argued. A provisional ballot is not a vote, he said.

"It is harder to vote than it is to register to vote," Priebe said. He said he couldn't believe that was consistent with the Constitution.

The state chose to emphasize the alternative voting method in which a photo ID isn't required. If that procedure is abused, then there might be a cause of action.

Priebe said the legislature can change the voter registration portion of the Constitution, but only in a germane way. The law under challenge gave discretion to registration, effectively, the county election commission rather than the county clerk in approving provisional ballots.

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