August 11, 2014
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU) and Arkansas Public Law Center (APLC) today filed briefs in the Arkansas Supreme Court supporting their challenge of the state’s voter ID law on behalf of Arkansas voters. The groups ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold the decision of the lower court finding the state’s voter ID law unconstitutional. The ACLU and APLC charge that the law violates the rights of voters as guaranteed by the Arkansas Constitution by impairing the right to vote and by impermissibly adding to the voting qualifications set out in the Constitution.
Several groups filed court papers in support of the voters’ case, including political science and law professors, social justice groups, and voter engagement organizations, outlining the lack of state legislative authority to pass a new qualification and emphasizing the impact on voters, from discouraging participation to creating impediments for voters in particular communities.
The law prohibits Arkansans from exercising their fundamental right to vote unless they present government-approved photo ID. Based on national estimates, 10% of Arkansas voters lack the necessary ID. The law does not provide any assistance in helping voters obtain ID, such as transportation, payment for documents needed to obtain ID such as birth certificates, or aid in locating such documents.
"People who have been eligible to vote their entire adult lives have been blocked from voting by this unnecessary and unconstitutional law," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "The Arkansas Constitution specifically outlines the qualifications needed to vote. The state has made it harder for eligible voters to exercise their most fundamental right than our own Constitution requires or allows."
If voters do not have photo ID, they must first cast a provisional ballot, then make a separate trip to the county clerk and swear that they are too “indigent” to obtain ID, which the ACLU and APLC maintain is intimidating and a burden, as the law does not specify what is considered “indigent.”
The ACLU and the APLC challenged the Arkansas voter ID law in April of this year in state court on behalf of individual voters. The groups sought an order preventing the law from going into effect. The judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional and violated voting rights as protected by the Arkansas Constitution. The judge stayed his own ruling because a related case regarding absentee ballots was pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court and early voting was set to start for the primary within a few days. The state immediately appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“During the primary election, at least 1,064 registered Arkansas voters’ votes were not counted solely due to the ID law,” said Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas. “We have asked the trial court to lift the stay before the general election, while we defend the court’s decision on appeal, for fear that thousands more registered voters will lose their vote in the November elections.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters impacted by this law. They include:
- A man born in Arkansas 78 years ago but never issued a birth certificate. State law requires three forms of ID before a delayed birth certificate will be issued. He would have to go to court to ask them to order a delayed birth certificate be issued before he can obtain sufficient ID to vote.
- Two women, neither of whom can obtain a copy of their birth certificate or vote because they do not have required photo ID to obtain their birth certificates or to vote.
The case, Kohls, et. al. v Martin, was filed in the Pulaski County Circuit Court against Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin and the State Board of Election Commissioners, who have the duty to regulate, implement, monitor and enforce election laws in Arkansas.
A copy of the brief filed with the Arkansas Supreme Court can be found here: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/303.pdf?081114110756
A copy of the friend of the court brief filed by political science and law professors can be found here: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/305.pdf?081114111814
A copy of the friend of the court brief filed by social justice groups can be found here:
A copy of the friend of the court brief field by a county clerk in Arkansas can be found here: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/306.pdf?081114124814
A copy of the friend of the court brief filed by a voter engagement group can be found here: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/308.pdf?081114174129
A copy of the complaint and client profiles can be found at: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/287.pdf
Numbers of voters disenfranchised in the primary, by county, can be found online at: http://www.acluarkansas.org/contentitemdocuments/294.pdf