Secretary of State Mark Martin, who hid out yesterday to avoid an AETN debate, surfaced in the early evening to criticize the ruling invalidating his Republican Party’s vote suppression legislation known as the voter ID bill.

He also issued this statement:


“We plan to defend the voter ID law that the legislature put in place to the fullest extent possible.”

There is nothing to defend. The highest court in Arkansas — citing the Arkansas Constitution — has ruled that the law is invalid. It is the controlling authority on state law. There is no other court to petition.

I’ve tried repeatedly, without success, to get an answer from Martin and the state board of election commissioners on which he serves to see if he’s at work — as he should be — making sure that county officials understand the old law applies. IDs may be requested, but are not required to vote in person or by absentee.


I’ve asked if Martin intends to instruct election officials to enforce an invalidated law. Will Mike Beebe have to call out the National Guard? Or maybe we could frogmarch Mark Martin to the county lockup for contempt of court.

UPDATE: A county election commissioner has sent me a memo being distributed by the secretary of state’s office. Looks like Martin is prepared to screw up some more.


Dear Clerks and Commissioners,

As you may have heard, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down Act 595 yesterday. Act 595 is the Voter ID bill that required voters to show a Photo ID prior to casting a ballot. My assumption at this time is that the law will go back to as it was prior to January 1, 2014. That means that only first time voters would be required to show ID, as you did in 2012. Our legal offices are currently reviewing the ASC decision at this time, and I will follow this email with additional information for you concerning the legal aspect for clarification. I have attached a copy of the Opinion for your reading pleasure.

I hope you are all well and look forward to Early Voting beginning Monday.

Yours truly,

Rob Hammons
Arkansas Secretary of State
Elections Division

It would appear the Supreme Court will be obeyed — for the most part. But I’m checking with lawyers about enforcement of the ID provision on first-time voters, a holdover from old law and the Constitution. A voter registration effort this year produced a significant number of new voters who might have ID issues.

Here’s what the constitution says in Amendment 51 about requiring ID of a first-time voter in spelling out registration:

 A statement informing the individual that if the form is submitted by mail and the
individual is registering for the first time, a current and valid photo identification or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter, must be submitted with the mailed registration form in order to avoid the additional identification requirements upon voting for the first time; 

UPDATE: Chris Burks, a lawyer and member of the Pulaski County Election Commission, agrees with my reading:


I believe you are right. A.C.A. 7-5-305(a)(8)(B)(ii) reads “A first-time voter who registers by mail without providing identification when registering….” On the other hand, the SOS statement from this morning reads “That means that only first time voters would be required to show ID, as you did in 2012.”

The Secretary of State Office’s public and private communication on voter ID issues has been woefully inadequate. Last night the Secretary of State’s office was even suggesting they would still “defend” the law, and were even going on background with reporters to suggest an “appeal.” It is the height of irresponsibility to suggest anything other than following the law mandated by the highest authority- the Arkansas Supreme Court. In spite of the Secretary of State Office’s statements, the Pulaski County Election Commission has a plan in place to instruct our poll workers on the appropriate law, and we look forward to a free and fair election.

Holly Dickson, ACLU staff counsel, agrees:

The only time a first time voter had to show ID under the old law is if their identification wasn’t satisfactorily verified when they registered. All first time voters did not have to show ID under the old law and should not all have to show ID now – it should revert to the limited situation of applying only to those voters who did not provide sufficient information upon registration. 

Barry Haas, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and long-time poll worker, explained:

The ID requirement for 1st time voters is only for people who registered by mail under the federal motor voter law AND who did not provide a copy of their ID at that time AND who are voting for the first time. So folks who registered in person and provided an ID and are voting for the first time have already shown their ID and would not be required to do so prior to voting.

In Pulaski Co. and I assume every other Arkansas county the precinct voter registration books have a “Must Show ID” notation by the names of affected voters. That’s so voter ID clerks now who must show an ID to vote a regular ballot. Is such persons fail to show an ID, they are issued a provisional ballot like any other other questionable voters.

I have worked as a poll worker for a dozen years or so, mostly at Parkway Place Baptist Church in west Little Rock, one of L.R.’s largest polling places with more than 4,500 eligible voters on our books. This “Must Show ID” requirement for this single class of voters has been in effect for years, and as poll workers we have been taught the above in poll worker training for years.

I have asked the secretary of state’s office if they intend to correct the misleading guidance they’ve provided.

Stu Soffer, a Republican state election commissioner, isn’t happy about the Supreme Court ruling, but he said it should be observed and provided a copy of guidance for election workers in 2012 that should apply:


Ask every voter to provide ID, even if you know them.


Check the PVR List for a notation of “MUST SHOW ID.”

If Voter DOES NOT have a “ MUST SHOW I D” Notation, Voter DOES NOT have to Provide ID
· If ID is provided, check the “ID Provided” box on the PVR List; and
· Give the voter a REGULAR ballot.
· If ID is NOT provided, write “No ID” next to the voter’s name on the
PVR List; and
· Give the voter a REGULAR ballot.


If Voter has a “ MUST SHOW ID ” Notation, Voter MUST Provide ID to vote a REGULAR Ballot
· If ID is provided, check the “ID Provided” box on the PVR List; and
· Give the voter a REGULAR ballot.
· If ID is NOT provided, write “No ID” next to the voter’s name on the
PVR List;
· Give the voter a PROVISIONAL ballot; and
· Follow Provisional Voting Procedures.

Valid Forms of Identification
· A current and valid photo ID such as a driver’s license;
· A copy of a current utility bill showing the voter’s name and address;
· A copy of a bank statement showing the voter’s name and address;
· A copy of a government check or paycheck showing the voter’s name and address; or
· A copy of another government document showing the voter’s name and address.