Judge strikes down Arkansas controversial voter ID law - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Judge strikes down Arkansas controversial voter ID law

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Arkansas’s controversial voter identification law was struck down on Thursday, saying it illegally adds a requirement that voters must meet before casting a ballot.  The law in effect has been rendered void and unenforceable. 

The lawsuit that went before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox was filed by the Pulaski County Election Commission, challenging a State Election Board ruling that in essence give absentee voters more time to provide photo ID.  Fox said upon reading the whole law, he found that none of it was valid.

Members of the Pulaski County Election Commission held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the ruling that was in their favor and figure out a course of action on how to train their poll workers.

“I think the order from Judge Fox reflects fidelity with the Arkansas Constitution, reflects seriousness about what the Arkansas Constitution says and I’m proud that we were part of that effort,” said Chris Burks, Pulaski County election commissioner.

But in reality, Burks and the Pulaski County Election Commission didn’t really make overturning the law the goal of their lawsuit.  It was actually the Republican Party of Arkansas, co-defendants in the case, that supposedly flubbed and brought the word “constitution” into the lawsuit.

“They brought the unconstitutionality of the act onto the table in this case,” said Karla Burnett, county attorney for Pulaski County.

Despite Thursday’s ruling, training for poll works still goes on with ten days until early voting for the May primaries begins.  Although it will vary county by county, the Pulaski County Election Commission will still instruct their poll workers to ask for a photo ID, regardless of the law being void.

“There could be a stay issued in the ruling by Judge Fox to where it would make the voter ID law constitutional,” said Alex Reed, speaking in his role of spokesperson for Secretary of State Mark Martin.  “So we’ve got to tread very lightly on that to make sure that we’re prepared for all of the scenarios.”

Secretary of State Martin’s office, along with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, have already announced their appeal for Judge Fox’s decision. 

Reacting to the decision on Thursday, Holly Wilson, communications director for the Republican Party of Arkansas, released this statement:

“We are surprised by the ruling in this case and wholeheartedly disagree with the decision.  Our case before the Court was on a specific regulation while this ruling was on the Constitutionality of the law; not plead by the plaintiff.  We are currently in discussion with Counsel for the Attorney General’s office regarding our appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas.”

Governor Mike Beebe’s office reacted to Judge Fox’s decision on Thursday claiming that they saw this decision coming and that was why the governor vetoed the legislation originally.

Thursday’s ruling had nothing to do with the ACLU’s case filed last week which actually questioned the constitutionality of Act 595 or the voter ID law.  The ACLU’s case is yet to go before a judge, and with the law already ruled unconstitutional, the status of their case is up in the air.