Arkansas ACLU files lawsuit to stop controversial voter-ID law

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed lawsuits on behalf of four individuals in regard to the state's controversial voter identification law passed by the general assembly in 2013. A press conference outside the Pulaski County Circuit Court on Wednesday addressed the reasons for the suit against the state.

"People who have been qualified to vote their entire adult lives are now being blocked from doing so by this unnecessary and unconstitutional law," said Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU of Arkansas.

Sklar said the law places additional restrictions on Arkansans by prohibiting them from exercising their fundamental right to vote unless they present government-approved photo ID. The ACLU cites national estimates saying approximately 10 percent of Arkansas voters don't have that necessary identification.

"This law passed by the general assembly last year puts more restrictions on the voter and we're challenging that law under the Arkansas constitution," said Sklar.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Freedom Kohls, Toylanda Smith, Joe Nathan Flakes and Barry Haas. For Kohls and Smith, they both lost their birth certificates, making ascertaining a photo ID extremely difficult. For Flakes, he was born without a birth certificate.

"The state has said, 'Mr. Flakes, you're going to have to go to court and ask a judge to order us to issue you a birth certificate,'" said Holly Dickson, legal director for the Arkansas ACLU.

Secretary of State Mark Martin along with the State Board of Election Commissioners in their official capacities as defendants in the lawsuit. The suit seeks a court injunction that the ACLU hopes to take effect before the primary elections next month, and it may have to be looked at even sooner because of early voting.

"Time is of the essence in this matter, like I said because early voting begins May the fifth," said Alex Reed, communications director for Secretary of State Mark Martin.

But overall the ACLU seeks to have the law completely thrown out. Reed said Martin's office will seek to uphold that state statute.

"Acts that are passed by the legislature, we're bound as executive constitutional officers to follow those and we're bound to presume every one of them constitutional and follow what the legislature passes," said Reed.

Sklar called out the Secretary of State's office for not doing enough when it comes to educating Arkansans on the new voter ID laws. Reed claims Martin's hands were tied with a cap on education funding regarding the law at only $300,000.

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