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Judge strikes down 4 Arkansas voting laws as unconstitutional

by Dale Ellis | March 18, 2022 at 2:23 p.m.
"I Voted" stickers sit on a table, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at the Cambridge City Hall annex, on the first morning of early voting in Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Four laws passed by the General Assembly last year affecting voters in Arkansas were struck down Friday.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled that all four of the laws violated the Arkansas Constitution by placing undue burdens on voters.

In granting the permanent injunction, Griffen said legislative fears of voter fraud could not justify passing laws restricting voting in the absence of any proof of conduct the laws were purportedly passed to address.

"In the judicial sphere you don't prove something is illegal just because you're afraid something might happen," Griffen said. "That's speculation."

The four laws at issue are Act 249, involving voter identification; Act 728, regulating campaigning around the polls; Act 736, affecting how ballots are validated; and Act 973, which sets deadlines for mail-in absentee ballots.

Supporters of the Republican-sponsored laws say they strengthen Arkansas’ election integrity and bolster public confidence in the system.

Opponents said the laws deliberately make voting harder — and sometimes impossible — for voters who are poor, members of minority groups, or have certain health problems.

In making his ruling, Griffen said attorneys for the state were unable to produce evidence beyond allegations of voter misconduct.

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