Stay of judge’s ruling sought in voter ID case

LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Election Commissioners and the state Republican party both asked the state Supreme Court on Monday for an emergency stay of a circuit judge’s ruling that Arkansas’ voter ID law is unconstitutional.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled last week that Act 595 of 2013, which took effect Jan. 1 and requires voters to show photo ID at the polls, is unconstitutional because it imposes qualifications for voters that go beyond the qualifications set forth in the Arkansas Constitution and it unduly impairs their right to vote.

Fox issued the ruling in a lawsuit by the Pulaski County Election Commission that alleged the Board of Election Commissioners exceeded its authority when it adopted a rule on how absentee ballots should be treated under the law. On Monday, Assistant Attorney General David Curran filed a petition on behalf of the Board of Election Commissioners asking the Supreme Court to stay Fox’s ruling and allow the law to remain in effect.

The board argued that the commission is not likely to succeed on the merits of the case, in part because Fox issued the ruling in a lawsuit that did not challenge the constitutionality of Act 595.

Also, “a large majority of appellate courts to consider identical issues have upheld voter ID laws — including in cases raising claims under ‘additional qualifications’ and ‘impairment’ provisions contained in state constitutions,” the board argued.

The board asked the court to give the case expedited consideration if it will not issue a stay, noting that the primary and nonpartisan election is May 20 and early voting starts next Monday.

The state Republican Party, an intervenor in the case, also filed a petition seeking a stay.

The Pulaski County Election Commission did not file a response to the petitions Monday.

Fox has scheduled a Friday hearing in a separate lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center, that does challenge the constitutionality of Act 595.