[JURIST] Oral arguments for a case challenging Arkansas’ voter ID law began on Thursday, according [press release] to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law [advocacy website]. The Brennan Center for Justice filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] supporting the challengers. Act 595, passed in 2013 by the Arkansas legislature [official website], requires that Arkansas residents present government-approved ID in order to vote. For this case, the Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] will be deciding the constitutionality of the photo ID requirement. “Arkansas’ photo ID law could make it more difficult for thousands of life-long voters to cast ballots,” said Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The Arkansas Supreme Court must uphold this constitutionally protected right and follow its state constitution by rejecting this overly harsh and burdensome law.” The complaint was filed in April [JURIST report] by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center [advocacy websites].
State voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder] 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 [official website] 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 the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] 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 [official website] last October rejected [JURIST report] a movement to overturn that state’s voter ID law, unanimously upholding its constitutionality. Two months earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] 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 14th and 15th Amendments [texts, LII].