Thanks to Ballet Access News for this post.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking to overturn the state's voter I.D. law as violating the state constitution.
The legislature passed Act 595, over Gov. Mike Beebe's veto, in 2013, requiring a photo I.D.
The suit cites the Arkansas constitution, which says:
Elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.
To vote, an Arkansas citizen must now be in possession of a I.D. card issued by the federal government, the state or an accredited post-secondary school in Arkansas.
Don't have a car? No longer driving? Aren't in the military? Aren't in school? Not a world traveler equipped with a passport? Don't work for the state?
Plaintiffs in the suit are Freedom Kohls, Toylanda Smith and Joe Flakes, who do not possess photo I.D.s, and Barry Haas, who has one but declined to show it at the polls at an election this year and was required to cast a provisional ballot, which was not counted in the election results. Defendants are Secretary of State Mark Martin and the members of the state Board of Election Commissioners.
Kohls is a 34-year-old Hurricane Katrina refugee who lost all her possessions, including her ID, in the storm. Smith has had trouble navigating the system to get a photo I.D., which is required to get a birth certificate. Flakes is 78 and was never issued a birth certificate because he was delivered by a midwife who did not properly record his birth; he'd have to go to court to get a birth certificate.
At a press conference in front of the Pulaski County Courthouse this afternoon, ACLU director Rita Sklar called the right to vote fundamental and the "great equalizer" that gives the same weight of opinion at the polls to all. She said voter impersonation was not a problem; the law only serves to make it harder for "the poor, the disabled, the elderly, people of color" to vote: "This law stands between qualified voters and the ballot box." ACLU lawyer Holly Dickson noted that the new law also requires that the name on the voter I.D. match the name the voter registered under, which create hurdles for women who taken their husband's name since registering and whose I.D. reflects the name.
Sklar and Dickson said it was their experience in meeting people across the state that most people do not know the law exists.
The complaint has been assigned to Judge Tim Fox's court. The suit asks Fox to enjoin the state from requiring a voter I.D.; the ACLU would like to see him act before the May 20 primary.*mnsp; The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 21.
If Fox does not issue an injunction but rules after the primary that the state law is unconstitutional, disenfranchised voters could sue to nullify the results of the election.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
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