If their questions during oral arguments last week are any indication, some Arkansas Supreme Court justices are skeptical about the idea that the state’s voter ID law amounts to merely a verification of registration and not a new requirement for casting a ballot. It’s an encouraging sign to voter ID opponents, but they still may wind up with a verdict that could leave unsettled the law’s constitutionality until after the November election. The 45-minute hearing before the court offered little new in a debate that was being fought long before the Republican-led Legislature approved the voter ID law over the objections of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe last year. The debate primarily boils down to whether requiring Arkansans to show photo ID before casting a ballot violates Arkansas’ constitution by imposing a new qualification to be a voter.
Thirty-two states have laws requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states have strict photo ID requirements similar to Arkansas’.
Opponents of the law say it’s putting a burden on voting that other rights enshrined in the Constitution such as freedom of speech and religion don’t have to face.
“The law impairs the fundamental right of voting because if you don’t have the ID, you can’t do it,” said Jeff Priebe, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center, the groups suing the state over the law. “There’s no other fundamental right in Arkansas which requires that you show a picture ID in order to take advantage of that right.”