Problems Alleged in Arkansas Voter ID Requirement

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Thursday, May. 22, 2014 7:32 am  

LITTLE ROCK — The group that sued to challenge Arkansas' law requiring voters to show identification at the polls said Wednesday it is investigating complaints that voters were wrongly prevented from casting ballots in the primary election.

A Pulaski County circuit judge had ruled the law unconstitutional but postponed imposition of his finding, so voters were required to show identification Tuesday and during early voting. The ruling by Circuit Judge Tim Fox is under appeal by the state to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Holly Dickson, legal director for the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said there were inconsistencies in how the voter ID law was enforced Tuesday by poll workers across the state.

"We've heard reports of numerous types of problems. First and foremost, voters having to argue with poll workers to get provisional ballots. Voters without identification really had to assert themselves to get a provisional ballot, and sometimes they didn't get one," Dickson said.

In Pulaski County, Clerk Larry Crane said the most common problem was people forgetting to bring identification and having to go home to get it.

"I don't know how many of them came back to vote," Crane said.

Bryan Poe, chairman of the Pulaski County Election Commission, said his office received no complaints but some voter issues were raised at polling places. Those incidents will be investigated, Poe said.

Of 79 provisional ballots that were cast, Poe said 25 of them were due to voters not having ID.

Under the law, votes of people without proper ID when casting absentee ballots have been thrown out. Poe said 62 absentee ballots were tossed in Pulaski County.

Garland County had problems with some voting machines but Election Commission Chairwoman Ginna Watson said voter ID issues didn't pose significant problems.

"Our provisional ballots really came from us not being able to prove that (the voters in question) are registered," Watson said.

She said two people had voter ID issues, including one man who briefly refused to show his ID as a protest. Watson said the man eventually showed an ID and was able to vote. Another person tried to use identification from another state and wound up filing a provisional ballot, she said.

Dickson said she's waiting for Fox to issue a written order to formalize his ruling.

"Once we have a written order we'll have a better idea how to proceed," Dickson said.

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