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Arkansas judge strikes down voter ID law

[JURIST] A judge for the Pulaski County Circuit Court for the 6th Division [official website] on Thursday struck down [opinion] an Arkansas voter ID law, finding that it violates the state constitution. In the order granting summary judgment to the Pulaski County Election Commission [official website], Judge Tim Fox found Act 595 [bill, PDF] violates Article 3 §1 and Article 3 U§2 of the Arkansas constitution [text, PDF]. The law requires that voters present a limited range of government forms of identification. Voters without ID must cast provisional ballots, then go to the county clerk to affirm that they are "indigent" and cannot afford to buy the proper identification. The State Board of Election Commissioners and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel [official websites] plan to appeal [AP report] the decision. The ACLU of Arkansas [advocacy website] has filed a separate lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Debate over voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder] has sparked controversy leading up to presidential and congressional elections in November 2012 and beyond. Rights groups argue that voter ID legislation is an attempt by conservatives to preserve their political power through voter suppression of minorities. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia are just a few of the states currently embroiled [JURIST news archive] in litigation with state residents and civil rights advocacy groups over their voter ID legislation. Last year the the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in Shelby County v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder] is unconstitutional, and its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance. Section 5 of the VRA requires jurisdictions with a history of preventing minority groups from voting to receive preclearance from the US Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official websites] before making any changes to their voting laws.

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