Arkansas judge considers request to block voter ID law

Mar 13, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An attorney for a Little Rock man challenging Arkansas' voter ID law called the measure an end run around a court decision striking down a nearly identical state law four years ago, while attorneys for the state called the provision a proper way to verify a voter's registration.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray didn't say when she would rule on a request to block the law's enforcement in Arkansas' May 22 primary after a day of testimony and arguments from lawyers for the state and the voter challenging the measure, Barry Haas of Little Rock. Early voting for the primary is set to begin May 7.

Haas' attorney said that the law, which was enacted last year, circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure by billing itself as a change in the state's voter registration procedures.

"It's a square peg in a round hole. It won't work," Jeff Priebe told Gray during the hearing.

The revived voter ID law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, was passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law last year. It's aimed at addressing an argument by some state Supreme Court justices that the 2013 law didn't receive enough votes in the Legislature to be enacted. The court's majority in 2014 ruled the law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding a new requirement in order to vote.

Attorneys for the state said the measure was a proper response to that ruling, noting it received more than the two-thirds vote needed to change voter registration requirements. They said voters like Haas who don't show ID would still be able to have their vote counted if they signed a statement verifying their identity.

"We're terribly concerned about the harm (an injunction) will inflict on the registration and voting process in Arkansas as we get ready for the election in May," A.J. Kelly, general counsel for Secretary of State Mark Martin's office, said during the hearing.

Arkansas' new law took effect in August and has been enforced in several local elections. The May primary is the first statewide election in which the measure will be enforced.


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