ACLU Asks Judge Tim Fox to Block Voter ID Law

LITTLE ROCK — A civil liberties group asked an Arkansas judge Tuesday to block the state from enforcing its voter ID law, saying more than 1,000 people were disenfranchised during last month's primary election because of the requirement to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled last month that the voter ID requirement was unconstitutional but suspended his ruling with a stay, allowing the requirement to stay in place during the May 20 primary and June 10 runoff election.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas on Tuesday asked Fox to lift the stay, saying 933 absentee ballots and 131 ballots cast in person during the primary were thrown out because of the new voter ID law.

"With the November 2014 general election expected to have an even greater turnout, the impact of the 'proof of identity' provisions on otherwise qualified Arkansas voters in the general election could be even greater," the group said in its filing. "Should rates of disenfranchisement and voter turnout remain steady for the November General Election, potentially thousands of registered Arkansas voters could be disenfranchised in the General Election."

The ACLU of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center sued the state on behalf of four voters it said would be harmed by the voter ID law.

The law allows voters who don't show ID at the polls to cast a provisional ballot that won't be counted unless they show ID to election officials by noon on the Monday after election day. No such "cure period" is allowed for absentee voters, who are required to include a copy of their photo ID with their ballots.

Fox ruled in May that requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot violated the Arkansas Constitution by creating a new qualification to vote. He also said lawmakers did not properly approve the measure, citing a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to change the voter registration process.

The Republican-led Legislature approved the voter ID law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe with a simple majority vote.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Secretary of State Mark Martin have appealed Fox's ruling.

Fox had found the law unconstitutional in April in a separate case that focused on absentee ballots. The state Supreme Court tossed out that decision, saying the judge didn't have the authority to address the law's constitutionality in that case.

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