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Rights groups challenge Arkansas voter ID law

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center [advocacy websites] filed a complaint [text, PDF] Wednesday in Arkansas state court challenging the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law. Act 595 [text, PDF], passed in 2013 by the Republican-led Arkansas legislature [official website], requires that Arkansas residents present government-approved ID in order to vote. The complaint, filed in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County [official website], asserts that Act 595 "places additional qualifications, restrictions, and impairments on the ability of the residents of Arkansas to vote." The Arkansas ACLU argues that the state constitution [text, PDF] requires only that a voter be a US citizen, a resident of Arkansas, at least 18 years old and lawfully registered to vote and that "no power ... shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired." Rita Sklar, executive director if the ACLU of Arkansas, states [press release, PDF] that because of "the unwarranted and unconstitutional provisions of Act 595" people who have been voting all their adult lives will now be blocked from doing so. The lawsuit brought by four Arkansas residents [client profiles, PDF] impacted by the new law, asks the court for an injunction to block the voter ID requirement before it is enforced for the first time in next month's primaries.

State voter ID laws [JURIST feature] have been highly contested in dozens of US states in recent years. 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. In January Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett filed [JURIST report] a post-trial motion alleging that a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge made critical mistakes in his analysis finding Pennsylvania's voter ID law unconstitutional. Last November, Wisconsin's Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] to hear arguments in two cases regarding that state's voter ID law, which was blocked in 2012 and then reinstated in May 2013. The Tennessee Supreme Court, last October, rejected [JURIST report] a movement to overturn that state's voter ID law, unanimously upholding its constitutionality. Two months earlier, the DOJ filed [JURIST report] suit against the state of Texas, claiming its voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

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