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Lawsuit challenges new Arkansas voting restrictions

by The Associated Press | May 20, 2021 at 11:10 a.m.
Supporters of a candidate cavort across the street from a polling place in Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, March 3, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.)

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 Wednesday challenging the election measures approved by the Republican Legislature and governor. An 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.

[RELATED: Arkansas rolls out array of vote laws called protective by some, restrictive by others » arkansasonline.com/votelaws21]

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 an 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.

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.

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