Arkansas Supreme Court Considers State's Voter ID Law

Oct 2, 2014

Arkansas Supreme Court justices

It’s now up to the Arkansas Supreme Court to decide whether voters will have to show photo identification at the polls next month.

On Thursday, justices heard oral arguments in an appeal of a case that challenged the law passed last year by the Republican-led Legislature.

"As this court is aware, voting is the fundamental right.  As described by the United States Supreme Court, the fundamental right that's the key to all others," said Attorney Jeff Priebe, who is representing the American Civil Liberties Union and the Arkansas Public Law Center, which brought the case on behalf of four voters.

"This law impairs the fundamental right of voting because if you don't have the ID, you can't do it. And there's no other fundamental right in Arkansas which requires that you show a picture ID in order to take advantage of that right."

Priebe also said the law violates the Arkansas Constitution by placing a new qualification for casting a ballot.

But attorney A.J. Kelly with the Secretary of State's office argued the voter ID law is merely a mechanism to ensure that voters are registered. He asked the state’s high court to toss out a decision earlier this year by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, which invalidated the law.

"The trial court is simply wrong," Kelly said, "and his assumption or jumping to that conclusion was an error of law that this court should reverse, there's no question about it. We believe the act is valid.  There are people who can vote under this law constitutionally without problem."

Judge Fox had immediately suspended his ruling in May, pending appeal, and Kelly noted the primary election that month went smoothly.

"The conduct of the May 20 election shows that precisely. From May 5th until May 20th while this matter was pending, the entire primary ran with no problem," Kelly said.

There was no indication from justices when a ruling will be issued, with the general election just over a month away.  Some believe a decision could have an impact on close races, like the one for U.S. Senate.