LITTLE ROCK — More than 1,000 ballots went uncounted in the May 20 primary election because of Arkansas’ new voter ID law, according to a motion filed Tuesday that asks a judge to block further implementation of the law.
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed the motion in Pulaski County Circuit Court on behalf of four Arkansas voters who challenged Act 595 of 2013, which requires voters to show photo identification at the polls and submit an approved form of identification with an absentee ballot.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled last month that Act 595 is unconstitutional, but he stayed his order pending an appeal by the state, leaving the law in effect for the May 20 primary election and the June 10 primary runoff. The motion filed Tuesday asks Fox to lift that stay so the law cannot be enforced in future elections while the case is on appeal.
The motion states that based on information gathered from 72 counties, 131 ballots cast in person on May 20 and 933 absentee ballots cast in that election were not counted because of the voter ID law.
“Given the evidence of impact on voters from the recent primary election, plaintiffs submit that irreparable harm in the form of potentially thousands of registered voters being disenfranchised during the general election will result if the stay is left in place during the appeal,” the motion states.
Act 595 allows voters who do not show photo ID at the polls to cast a provisional ballot and gives them until noon on the Monday after the election to submit photo ID to the county clerk or county election commission so the ballot can be counted. It does not provide a similar remedy for voters who fail to submit identification with an absentee ballot.
ACLU Legal Director Holly Dickson said in a statement Tuesday, “The Arkansas Constitution says that Arkansans are guaranteed free and fair elections, but this law sets aside legitimate votes. That attacks the foundation of our system of government, and we are asking the court to protect voters and the integrity of our elections by letting voters vote.”
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the office was reviewing the motion.
Mark Myers, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said Tuesday, “We received the motion today and we’re reviewing it. However, we think the stay was appropriate in the first place and hope that the judge will continue the stay.”
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed Act 595 last year, but the Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto.
Fox ruled last month that the law imposes requirements on voters that go beyond the requirements in the Arkansas Constitution. He had struck down the law in April in a separate case, but the state Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying the constitutionality of the law was not an issue in that case.
In Jefferson County, 90 absentee ballots from the May 20 primary were not counted because they failed to meet the new ID standards, said election coordinator Will Fox III, who believed there was also one documented case from the primary of a voter being turned away from the polls on election day because of a lack of voter ID. In the June 10 runoff election, no ballots were rejected because of voter ID issues, he said.