Arkansas Voter ID Law Again Found Unconstitutional

May 2, 2014

File photo of a sign at the entrance of a Little Rock polling location asking residents to have a photo ID ready.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An Arkansas judge has again found the state's new voter ID law to be unconstitutional, but a photo identification will still be needed for this month's primary election.

Judge Tim Fox held a hearing Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court concerning a second challenge to law, this one from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center. 

While he again ruled the law passed by the Arkansas Legislature last year violates the state Constitution, the Arkansas Times reports Fox said he would not stop the state from enforcing it in this month’s primary election.

"I just don't know how we can have an official election if we throw everything into some maelstrom," Fox said.  "I'm not going to throw thousands of precincts into turmoil."

In another case last week involving absentee ballets provided without proof of identification, Fox struck down the law. The Arkansas Supreme Court stayed that ruling earlier this week and may soon rule on the law.

Republican supporters of the law say it's needed to prevent voter fraud.  But critics say it will disenfranchise some people who don't have a photo identification.

"Personally, I have no problem with someone being asked to show photo ID," Fox said Friday.  "But what I think personally doesn't matter when I'm in this courtroom and sitting behind this bench."

Fox said that if even one person who is legally entitled to vote is denied that right, then the entire electorate suffers irreparable harm.

After Friday's hearing, the ACLU of Arkansas released a statement from Executive Director Rita Sklar:

People who do not already have government issued identification can have a very hard time obtaining government issued photo ID.  A lot of people don’t realize what a hardship it can be for some people to get these documents. Our clients are registered legitimate voters who do not have the required ID, and they want to exercise their right to participate in the democratic process, as they have in the past. We are hopeful that the court’s ruling will mean that they will regain their fundamental right to vote.