The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s voter ID law Wednesday evening, meaning it won’t be in effect for the impending midterm elections.
The court’s majority upheld an appeals court ruling that found that by requiring ID, the law added an additional voter “qualification,” which violates the state’s constitution.
“We are thrilled that all legitimate Arkansas voters are going to retain their fundamental right vote in the upcoming election,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas ACLU, which challenged the law.
The court’s order has implications for the midterm elections. The state is hosting a crucial Senate race, which could help determine which party has control of the upper chamber of Congress. The law could have dampened turnout among minorities, who are expectedly to strongly support Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.
A county judge struck down the law in May, but he stayed his own order while it was being appealed. That meant the law was in effect for the May primary, where it caused chaos and confusion at the polls.
During that election, 1,000 absentee ballots weren’t counted because voters hadn’t included IDs. There were reports of poll workers quizzing voters on their personal information after being shown ID, and using electronic card strip readers to verify ID — both of which go far beyond what the law allowed. And Asa Hutchinson, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, was temporarily unable to vote after forgetting his ID.
Election law expert Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, said in a blog post that Wednesday’s ruling was a “big win for opponents of voter ID.” But he also noted there are “no obvious federal constitutional issues in this case, so the chances of U.S. Supreme Court review of this case are quite small.”
The law was approved last year by Arkansas’ GOP-controlled legislature, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who said it “unnecessarily restricts and impairs our citizens’ right to vote.” Lawmakers then overrode Beebe’s veto.
Wednesday’s ruling comes amid a busy period for voting rights in the courts. In recent weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved Ohio’s cuts to early voting and North Carolina’s restrictive voting law, while blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law. The justices are now set to consider Texas’s ID law.