With midterms elections rapidly approaching, a Pulaski County Circuit judge in Arkansas has ruled that four new voting laws, passed by Republican lawmakers, are unconstitutional and would make it “harder — and in some cases impossible” for voters to cast their ballots.
Following a four-day trial, Judge Wendell Griffen issued a permanent injunction against the measures, which included a requirement for photo identification at the polls, rather than simply a signature on an affidavit as proof of their identity.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2021 by the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, Arkansas United, and five voters, claimed the measures, aimed at protecting the integrity of the elections, were unnecessary as there is no presented evidence from the 2020 elections to indicate fraud took place.
“What is certain is that, if left to stand, the challenged provisions will make it harder — and in some cases impossible — for lawful voters to exercise their right to vote,” the plaintiffs claimed.
"Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen granted the plaintiffs, the League of Women Voters of Arkansas and Arkansas United, a permanent injunction over the measures, which would tighten voting requirements …"#lwv @lwvarkansas #Democracy https://t.co/QVY2NpmqdI
— LeagueWomenVotersTX (@LWVTexas) March 20, 2022
Griffen, ruling from the bench, said the state’s concerns over election integrity do not amount to proof of fraud.
“Court further finds that defendant’s stated concerns about election integrity and insecurity are based entirely on conjecture and speculation,” Griffen ruled, according to the Washington Examiner. “Conjecture and speculation, however plausible, cannot be permitted to supply the place of proof.”
In addition to voter ID, the measures deemed unconstitutional include one that restricts anyone who isn’t voting from coming within 100 feet of a polling place; one which requires signatures on absentee voters’ ballots to actually match the signature on their voter registration application; and one which would moves up the deadline for voters returning absentee ballots in person, the Associated Press reported.
Judge Griffen stated he will be issuing a more detailed order in the future.
Stephanie Sharp, a spokesperson for Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office, said in a statement, “The Attorney General is committed to fighting for the integrity of elections in the state of Arkansas.” The AG plans to review Griffen’s order before determining the state’s next move.
In a statement, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, said, “States should be left with the flexibility to protect the integrity of the ballot box and the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to review the constitutionality of these laws.”
On social media, Liberals are, naturally, celebrating the “win.”
Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones tweeted, “Extremists tried to sow chaos into our voting in Arkansas. These laws would have prevented parents from bringing our children into the voting booth, outlawed efforts to increase voting places, and restricted our elderly and disabled citizens from voting.”
Extremists tried to sow chaos into our voting in Arkansas. These laws would have prevented parents from bringing our children into the voting booth, outlawed efforts to increase voting places, and restricted our elderly and disabled citizens from voting. https://t.co/OaPj54Lan9
— Chris Jones (@JonesForAR) March 19, 2022
But Republicans are voicing their frustrations.
“Judge is retiring this year,” tweeted one user. “Can’t be soon enough.”
“I know the judge,” tweeted another. “He’s a nice man who is committed to his causes. However, his unwavering commitment to his causes makes him unfit to be a judge. I hope a more qualified candidate runs against him in the next election.”
Judge is retiring this year. Can’t be soon enough
— BeckyH (@BeckyHoweth) March 19, 2022
I know the judge. He’s a nice man who is committed to his causes. However, his unwavering commitment to his causes makes him unfit to be a judge. I hope a more qualified candidate runs against him in the next election.
— Mike Shull (@GoMikeShull) March 19, 2022
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