Arkansas Justices OK Law Requiring Photo ID to Vote

(CN) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, reversing a lower court’s ruling that found the measure unconstitutional.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Act 633 – passed by the state’s General Assembly last year – is nearly identical to another voter ID law that the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down four years ago, except that it allows voters who do not present a government-issued photo ID to cast provisional ballots.

Voter Barry Haas claims the law unconstitutionally adds requirements to vote.

Pulaski County Judge Alice Gray sided with Haas in April, finding that Act 633 “requires the voter to resurrect the completed registration process and re-qualify as a voter each time she votes, as long as she lives.”

However, the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed the preliminary injunction, allowing the law to go into effect days before early voting in the state’s primary elections began in May.

In a 5-2 ruling Thursday, the state’s highest court reversed Judge Gray’s ruling, finding that Act 633 is consistent with the “policy and purpose” of an amendment to the state constitution relating to voter registration — even though voters in Arkansas do not have to submit a photo ID during the registration process.

“In our view, providing a system of verifying that a person attempting to cast a ballot is registered to vote is relevant and pertinent, or has a close relationship, to an amendment establishing a system of voter registration,” Justice Robin Wynne wrote for the court’s majority.

Justice Josephine Hart dissented, writing that it is “telling” that a person registering to vote does not need to provide photo ID.

“If providing photo identification were required at registration, requiring presentation of the card at the polling place would be more defensible,” Hart said. “Asking for a photo identification card at the polling place strikes me as locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.”

Chief Justice John Kemp also dissented.

Haas’ attorney Jeff Priebe told the Associated Press on Thursday that he respects the majority’s decision, but still has “significant concerns for voters in the state of Arkansas when it’s easier to register than it is to actually vote.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement that the court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the law is a “huge win for everyday Arkansans and our election process.”

“Today’s decision protects the integrity of every voter’s ballot and ensures that your vote cannot be stolen by someone pretending to be you at the polls,” Rutledge said.

Seventeen states have voter ID laws in force in 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Arkansas Supreme Court decision comes on the heels of two other court rulings on state voter ID laws this week.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a challenge to a North Dakota voter ID rule that requires voters to have a residential street address to cast a ballot, even though thousands of Native Americans in the state live on reservations and do not have typical residential addresses.

Cole County Judge Richard Callahan in Missouri ruled Tuesday that state election officials can no longer tell people that a photo ID is required to vote because, under state law, voters can cast a ballot without a photo ID if they sign a statement or present a voter registration card, utility bill or bank statement.

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