Arkansas officials ask court to keep voter ID law in place

Trial Coverage

Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.

"We want the votes of Arkansans to count and would hope that the Circuit Court's decision would be in effect during the upcoming primary," attorney Jeff Priebe said in an email.

Martin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge last week appealed Gray's ruling, but the court earlier Monday set a schedule for filing briefs that wouldn't begin until June.

The revived voter ID law would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. It's aimed at addressing an argument by some state Supreme Court justices that the 2013 law didn't receive enough votes in the Legislature to be enacted. The court's majority ruled the law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding a new requirement to vote.

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