Court Declares Arkansas Voter Suppression Law Unconstitutional

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Voter ID laws, which require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, reduce voter turn out among young voters, low-income voters and people of color — all of whom are groups that tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans. Arkansas’ voter ID law is also unconstitutional, according to a state trial court’s decision handed down on Thursday.

As Judge Timothy Davis Fox lays out the controlling law in this case, the constitutionality of Arkansas’ voter ID law isn’t even a particular difficult question. The Arkansas Constitution provides that “[n]o power, civil or military, 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 or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.” This law impairs the free exercise of the right of suffrage.

Though there is a provision allowing some parts of Arkansas’ voting requirements to be changed by a two-thirds vote of the state legislature, it is doubtful that that provision applies to voter ID — as Judge Fox writes, “[t]he citizens of the State of Arkansas retain the sole authority to change . . . voter qualifications under Article 3” of the state constitution. In any event, the voter ID law passed by a 22-12 margin in the state senate and by a 51-44 vote margin in the state house. That’s less than two-thirds.