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Arkansas Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law, Casino Proposal

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen

Arkansas voters will be able to consider a casino amendment during next month's election, the state highest court ruled Thursday. The Arkansas Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the constitutionality of a voter ID law passed by the Legislature last year.

In one casino case brought by Ensuring Arkansas’ Future, the petitioners raised 27 challenges to Issue 4, which would allow casino operations at Oaklawn and Southland and also at sites in Pope County and Jefferson County.

Justice Rhonda Wood wrote, “This court has repeatedly stated that a ballot title does not need to include every possible consequence or impact of a proposed measure, and it does not need to address or anticipate every possible legal issue.”

In the other case brought by Citizens for Local Choice, Justice Courtney Goodson wrote that petitioner Jim Knight had failed to prove that the ballot title is insufficient.

“We believe that the popular name and ballot title of Issue No. 4 give voters a fair understanding of the issues presented and the scope and significance of the proposed changes in law, are free of any misleading tendency or partisan coloring, and will allow voters to reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote,” she wrote.

Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward, the ballot question committee supporting Issue 4, offered a statement to Talk Business & Politics.

These decisions clear the way for Arkansas voters to add almost $6 billion to our state’s economy and create 6,000 new jobs through a fair, measured and merit-based expansion of casino gaming. We are grateful the Supreme Court upheld the Attorney General’s certification that Issue 4 is clear and understandable to voters. We are confident Arkansans will vote to keep casino entertainment dollars in our state when they cast their ballots on Nov. 6.

In the voter ID case, the court reversed a decision by the Pulaski County Circuit Court in favor of plaintiff Barry Haas.

The law was passed in 2017 and requires voters to present a photo ID at the ballot box. The opinion written by Justice Robin Wynne said the law is an enforcement mechanism that is consistent with Amendment 51, passed by voters in 1964, that abolished the poll tax and created a regulatory scheme for voter registration.

“The amendment itself contemplates some enforcement mechanism, and Act 633 provides a method of ensuring that no person is permitted to vote who is not registered. Providing a method of enforcement – verification of voter identity by photo identification or by affirmation – is consistent with the policy and purpose of Amendment 51,” he wrote.

Issue 2, which will be on the ballot in November, will place a voter ID requirement in the Constitution.