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Arkansas Election Board Seeks Stay of Voter ID Ruling

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LITTLE ROCK – With early voting for the May primary set to begin next week, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners and the state’s Republican Party asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday for an emergency stay of a judge’s ruling that found the state’s new voter ID requirement unconstitutional.

The board filed a request Monday asking justices for an emergency stay to allow the voter identication requirement to remain in place for the upcoming primary election. Last week, Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox issued a ruling that threw out the voter ID law, which the Legislature passed last year. Fox made the ruling in a case filed by the Pulaski County Election Commission that focused on absentee ballots.

“The decision below grants relief well beyond what plaintiffs had requested,” the Republican Party of Arkansas wrote in a filing. “It has the potential for causing irreparable harm and confusion not only among voters but election officials. It was issued at the eleventh hour with early voting scheduled to begin in the state of Arkansas in a matter of days.”

The GOP had been given permission to help defend the state in the absentee ballot case, and it has filed a separate notice of appeal. The state’s primary is May 20, and early voting for it begins May 5.

The Pulaski County Election Commission sued the State Board of Election Commissioners for adopting a rule that gives absentee voters additional time to show proof of ID. The rule allows voters who did not submit required identification with their absentee ballot to turn in the documents for their vote to be counted by noon on the Monday following an election. It mirrors an identical “cure period” the law gives to voters who fail to show proper identification at the polls.

In its filing Monday, the State Board of Election Commissioners said Fox issued a ruling on an argument that no one made.

“In short, the (Pulaski County commission) received a summary judgment in their favor based on a legal theory they never asserted in a pleading or other submission,” said the filing from the Arkansas attorney general’s office, which is representing the state election board.

The Pulaski County commission has not yet responded to the request for the emergency stay.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has filed a separate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the voter ID law. Fox is also the judge in that case and is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday. The secretary of state’s office has asked Fox to recuse from that case.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)

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