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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Arkansas Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional

(CN) - Citing Civil War-era precedent, the Arkansas Supreme Court found the state's voter ID law unconstitutional Wednesday, barring its enforcement in the upcoming election.

"For approximately 150 years, this court has remained steadfast in its adherence to the strict interpretation of the requisite voter qualifications articulated in the Arkansas Constitution," Justice Donald Corbin wrote for a three-judge panel.

The Arkansas Constitution makes only four requirements of voters. A person who wishes to vote in the state must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Arkansas, at least 18 years old and lawfully registered to vote.

"These four qualifications set forth in our state's constitution simply do not include any proof-of-identity requirement," the decision states.

The Richmond, Va.-based court cited Rison v. Farr, its 1865 decision striking down a law that required voters to swear an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and to swear that they had not aided the Confederate authorities since April 18, 1864 - a full year before the Civil War ended.

In 1964 the court also rejected a law imposing a "free" poll tax on voters.

"We adhere to the framers' intent conferred in article 3, section 1, of the Arkansas Constitution to require the foregoing four qualifications of voters in an Arkansas election and nothing more," Corbin wrote. "To hold otherwise would disenfranchise Arkansas voters and would negate 'the object sought to be accomplished' by the framers of the Arkansas Constitution."

In a concurring opinion, Justice Courtney Goodson noted that the majority "subjugates Arkansas to a minority of one: the only state in the union to hold that voter-identification laws constitute a voting qualification."

Goodson said she affirmed the decision, but on different grounds - she would overturn the act because it did not win a two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly, as required by the state constitution.

"Because the act is invalid, we need not decide whether it would otherwise pass constitutional scrutiny," Goodson said.

Thirty-one states have laws in effect that require voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported . Seven other states have photo ID requirements in effect as strict as Arkansas' law.

This week has been a tumultuous one for such laws. After barring Wisconsin from enforcing its voter ID law in the upcoming election, the Supreme Court faces a call to do the same with a similar law in Texas.

Holly Dickson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, applauded the Arkansas Supreme Court's "eradicat[ion of] this artificial, vote-stealing law."

"It was an unconstitutional barrier that has already stolen legitimate voting rights and we are thrilled to see Arkansans' voting rights restored," Dickson said, according to the Huffington Post.

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