Lawsuit challenges new Arkansas voting restrictions

Andrew DeMillo
The Associated Press

Two groups are asking an Arkansas judge to strike down several voting restrictions enacted this year that they say are unconstitutional and will disenfranchise the state's voters.

The League of Women Voters of Arkansas and Arkansas United filed a lawsuit May 19 challenging the four election measures approved by the Republican Legislature and governor. A historic number of voting restrictions has advanced in statehouses across the country, fueled by former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims of election fraud in the 2020 election.

Lawsuits have also been filed challenging new restrictions recently enacted in Georgia and Florida. 

The measures being challenged in Arkansas include a change to the state's voter ID law that removes the ability for someone without identification to cast a ballot if they sign a sworn affidavit. The groups are also challenging a law preventing anyone other than voters from being within 100 feet of a polling place, and another requiring an absentee voter's signature on a ballot to match the signature on their voter registration application.

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Backers of the measures have said they're needed to protect the integrity of the vote, but the lawsuit says there's been no evidence presented of fraud in last year's election that would necessitate the restrictions.

"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 groups said in their lawsuit.

Secretary of State John Thurston, who is named as a defendant, declined to comment because it's pending litigation, a spokesman said. The director of the State Board of Election Commissioners, whose members are also named as defendants, also declined comment.

One of the measures being challenged became law without Gov. Asa Hutchinson's signature, a move governors have taken to raise objections to a bill but not veto them. That measure moves up the deadline to drop off absentee ballots in person from the Monday before election day to Friday.

Hutchinson, a Republican, signed the other three measures into law. The governor said he hadn't seen the lawsuit yet but said he believed the voting measures would "pass constitutional muster."