LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas officials on Friday said they’re appealing a judge’s order blocking the state from enforcing a voter ID law that revived a nearly identical restriction struck down as unconstitutional four years ago.
Secretary of State Mark Martin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed notices Friday that they’re appealing Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray’s ruling against the voter ID law to the state Supreme Court. Gray on Thursday ruled the law was unconstitutional. She also issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the measure, less than a month before Arkansas’ May 22 primary. Early voting for Arkansas’ primary begins May 7.
Rutledge’s office said she’ll continue to defend the measure’s constitutionality, and Martin’s office said he strongly disagreed with the ruling.
“Presenting identification is required for almost all facets of American life. Securing the integrity of our electoral system is vitally important,” Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin, said in a statement. “Changing the rules in the middle of an election is irresponsible and creates confusion for voters. It is our job to uphold the law and to conduct a secure election.”
Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.
“Given the Court’s very well-reasoned opinion and the court’s findings we are a little surprised that the state would appeal so quickly however we will continue to fight to ensure that all Arkansans will have the right to vote and to have their votes counted,” Jeff Priebe, an attorney for Barry Haas, the voter who challenged the law, said in an email.
The revived voter ID law, which would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, was passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law last year. It’s aimed at addressing an argument by some state Supreme Court justices that the 2013 law didn’t receive enough votes in the Legislature to be enacted. The court’s majority ruled the law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding a new requirement in order to vote.
Four of the justices who struck down the 2013 law are no longer on the court, and one of the new justices is a former Republican state legislator. The three justices who said the 2013 law didn’t get the two-thirds vote needed to change voter registration requirements remain on the court. Gray, however, ruled that the voter ID requirement was not related to the voter registration requirements.
The new law was one of two steps the Legislature took last year to revive the voter ID requirement. Lawmakers also voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot that would further enshrine the voter ID requirement in Arkansas law.
Under the new law, officials would have had to provide photo identification to voters free of charge if they didn’t have any other photo ID. Unlike the 2013 law, the new law allowed voters without a photo ID to cast provisional ballots if they signed a sworn statement confirming their identities.