AG files notice of appeal in voter id case; judge asked to recuse

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Friday filed notice that he will appeal a Pulaski Circuit judge’s ruling Thursday that overturned a new Arkansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Also Friday, an attorney for Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the judge who issued the ruling, Tim Fox, to recuse from a separate lawsuit challenging the voter ID law.

Fox issued his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Pulaski County Election Commission that challenged the state Board of Election Commissioners’ rules on how absentee ballots should be treated under Act 595 of 2013, which took effect Jan. 1.

Fox declared the rules void, but he also said that upon reading the entire voter ID law, he found it to be unconstitutional because it adds additional qualifications for voters beyond those stated in the Arkansas Constitution.

Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for McDaniel, said Friday the attorney general will seek a stay of Fox’s ruling while the state’s appeal is pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Also filing a notice of appeal Friday was the state Republican party, an intervenor in the Pulaski County Election Commission’s suit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed a separate lawsuit earlier this month alleging that Act 595 is unconstitutional. Fox is also the judge in that case, in which a hearing a set for May 2.

Martha Adcock, general counsel for Secretary of State Mark Martin, asked Fox in a letter Friday to recuse in the ACLU’s suit. She noted a recent spate of lawsuits challenging the qualifications of judicial candidates, including one against Fox that was rejected and one against his former opponent, Valerie Thompson Bailey, that was successful in getting her disqualified.

Both rulings are being appealed. Martin is named as a defendant in each, and attorney Jeffrey Priebe is representing both a voter who challenged Bailey’s qualifications and the ACLU and the Arkansas Law Center in their challenge to Act 595.

“Given the pendency of these appeals, both involving your personal interests in the two respective candidacies, and given the involvement of plaintiffs’ attorney in that pending litigation, defendant secretary respectfully asks you to recuse in this matter,” Adcock wrote in her letter.

Meanwhile, Priebe filed a motion Friday asking Fox to grant a preliminary injunction to prohibit Act 595 from being enforced, citing Fox’s ruling in the Pulaski County Election Commission’s lawsuit to support the motion.