The Arkansas Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments at 9 a.m. this morning in a lawsuit challenging the state’s 2013 voter ID law. The proceedings will be available to stream live here (it’s now archived here).
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox has ruled that the law adds a new restriction on voting, which is unconstitutional under the Arkansas Constitution. Fox stayed the injunction he placed on the law. The suit was brought by the ACLU and the Arkansas Public Law Center and argues that it also places an undue burden on some people.
Gov. Beebe vetoed the voter ID law in 2013, calling it “an expensive solution in search of a problem,” but his veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Arkansas is one of 32 states with a voter ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but one of only nine the NCSL classifies as “strict” and requiring a photo ID.
This is the part of most stories on the lawsuit where most reporters say, “Supporters claim that the law is key to protecting the integrity of Arkansas’s elections.” That’s rarely followed by the more salient fact that in-person voter fraud, the only type fraud the voter ID law is meant to prevent, is vanishingly rare. A Loyola University Law professor recently found 31 cases among a billion votes cast in the last 14 years, where voters presented themselves improperly in a way that a voter ID law could have stopped.
Compare that to the more than 1,000 absentee voters whose votes were not counted in the May 2014 because they didn’t submit proof of identity. That out of only 347,000 voters.
A common argument in favor of ID laws is that IDs are required throughout all facets of life. That’s true among certain classes of people. The majority of Arkansans, maybe. Who does that leave out? The poor, minorities and the elderly. Read the stories of the disenfranchised the ACLU has been posting on its Facebook page recently. Of a 78-year-old man who was never issued a birth certificate and can’t produce the three forms of ID required to receive a delayed birth certificate. Of a homeless woman (one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit) without an ID or birth certificate; a “free” voter ID card requires proof of identity and a residential address. Of a woman named Freedom (another plaintiff) who lost her ID and birth certificate in a natural disaster.