Arkansas Supreme Court Upholds 2021 Voting Restrictions That State Judge Found Unconstitutional

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld four voting restrictions passed by Republican lawmakers in 2021 that were struck down by a state judge as unconstitutional.

Justices ruled that the four laws did not violate the U.S. or Arkansas constitutions, reversing and dsimissing the 2022 ruling by a Pulaski County judge. The court had earlier stayed the judge's decision in the case, so the restrictions were still in effect before Thursday's ruling

“We hold that the Acts are not clearly incompatible with the sections of the Arkansas Constitution as alleged by Appellees,” justices said in the unanimous ruling.

The measures upheld include a change to the state’s voter ID law that removes the option for someone to sign an affidavit affirming their identity if they don’t present a photo identification at the polls.

The other measures prevent anyone other than voters from being within 100 feet of a polling place, require an absentee voter’s signature on a ballot to match the signature on their voter registration application, and move up the deadline for voters to return absentee ballots in person.

Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin called the ruling “a total victory for Arkansas voters and the security of our elections moving forward.”

The League of Women Voters, who sued over the restrictions along with Arkansas United and five Arkansas voters, called the ruling a “disappointing blow to voting rights” in Arkansas. The lawsuit argued the restrictions would make it difficult — and in some cases impossible — for voters to exercise their right to vote.

“It is evident that these laws will continue to pose significant challenges to voters, particularly older Arkansans and those living in rural areas,” Bonnie Miller, president of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, said in a statement.

Supporters of the restrictions said they were needed to bolster confidence in the state's election system. The laws were among an historic number of voting restrictions that were enacted by Republican states following former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election.