Pulaski County Judge Timothy Fox of the Arkansas Sixth Circuit Court shot down the state's strict voter ID law as unconstitutional Thursday. The state attorney general plans to appeal.
The law, which the Republican-dominated legislature passed last year over Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto, was "void and unenforceable," Fox ruled in his eight-page decision. The lawsuit filed by the Pulaski County Election Commission only sought to overturn a provision mandating how absentee ballots were to be handled. But Fox ruled the entire law void because it added requirements citizens must meet before going to the polls.
As written, the law required citizens without a photo ID to cast a provisional vote. But it would only have been counted if they later showed an ID or proved they couldn't afford one. Among several ridiculous provisions, student IDs from out-of-state schools would not be considered acceptable but a voter could cast a ballot if s/he provided officials with a concealed handgun carry license:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed a separate lawsuit earlier this month alleging that Act 595, which took effect Jan. 1, is unconstitutional, but Fox issued his ruling in the lawsuit over absentee ballots.The American Civil Liberties Union and Arkansas Law Center had filed their own suit against the law, Act 595. On Wednesday, Fox had scheduled a May 2 hearing for that suit.
State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, who sponsored the legislation that became Act 595, said the ruling was “pretty shocking.”
“This seems to me out of bounds,” he said. “I don’t know why he’s ruling today on this on the whole act. I thought it was just supposed to be the rulemaking (on absentee ballots). It seems like there’s something odd going on.”
Early voting for the May 20 Arkansas primary begins May 5.
There's more on the war on voting below the fold.
• Online voter registration spreads: So far, 18 states have active online registration. Four others are in the process of setting it up. Ten other states have bills pending that would establish online registration.
This month, Georgia unleashed its online voter registration system complete with a pair of digital apps so that any resident with a mobile device and signature on file with a state agency can swipe and tap his or her way towards acceptance onto a voter registration list.• Brennan Center for Justice urges Obama to protect voting with executive orders: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act known colloquially as the "motor voter" act, departments of motor vehicles and other state agencies are used to register voters. Federal agencies are also authorized to assist, but most don't.
Illinois is racing to launch its system ahead of a July 1, 2014 deadline mandated by legislation passed last year. Hawaii is collecting vendor proposals so it can launch online voter registration by next spring while West Virginia has plans to begin work on its own system later this year.
Brennan Center President Michael Waldman wrote at the Daily Beast:
“Hundreds of thousands could be registered by the Veterans Administration, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, Department of Defense, and other units if they are designated as voter registration agencies.”That's just one possibility noted in a new paper from the center—15 Executive Actions that Waldman and Inimai Chettiar, director of the center's Justice Program, are proposing. Most don't relate to voting, but three others do:
• Convening Cabinet heads to develop plans to promote voter participation and streamline election systems.• John Paul Stevens wants amendment to fix gerrymandering: Now 94, the former U.S. Supreme Court justice is writing up a storm these days and generally behaving like a much younger man. His latest book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, focuses on issues he thinks the Court wrongly decided or has avoided. In addition to an amendment adding the death penalty to prohibitions of cruel and unusual punishments, he wants one that would mandate congressional and state legislative districts be "compact and composed of contiguous territory," thus preventing the creation of safe seats.
• Enlisting the private sector to assure free and fair elections.
• Appointing Republicans and Democrats to the Election Assistance Commission.
For Paul the consideration is: “Who's a bigger demographic?” If he wants young libertarians and minorities, backing away from social issues like abortion while also ignoring voter ID laws could make him a more palatable candidate.• Moulton Advertiser Editorial Board worries about absentee ID. Alabama now requires a photo ID be presented for voting. These are free, but the Advertiser board voices concern about this being another hoop to jump through when "voting should be a simple process:
For people with limited means of travel getting into town to a courthouse or Board of Registrars to get the ID is a problem.
What is worrisome is how the law makes absentee voting more difficult. If we understand the law, a copy of the voter ID is supposed to accompany the ballot. Since the voter ID must be shown to get the ballot, why does a copy of it have to be sent in with the ballot? The process becomes too complicated to really be practical.