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Arkansas Supreme Court stays ruling against 4 voting laws

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courts.arkansas.gov
The Arkansas Supreme Court building on the state Capitol grounds in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday allowed four new voting laws that a lower court judge found unconstitutional to remain in effect, halting his ruling while justices take up the case about the restrictions.

The high court granted an emergency stay requested by Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to a Pulaski County judge’s injunction against the restrictions the GOP-led Legislature passed last year.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen had denied Rutledge’s request to stay his decision on Tuesday pending her appeal. The one-page order didn’t elaborate on the court’s reason for staying Griffen’s decision.

“I am thrilled the Supreme Court stayed Judge Griffen’s erroneous decision,” Rutledge said in a statement released by her office. “It is crucial that we uphold Arkansas’s fair election laws to protect the integrity of the ballot box against those who threaten our democracy.”

The laws were among a historic number of voting restrictions that advanced in statehouses across the country last year, fueled by former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud in 2020.

Griffen had ruled that the laws were “based entirely on conjecture, speculation, surmise, misinformation, and fear-mongering about allegations of voter fraud and election insecurity.”

The measures struck down include a change to the state’s voter ID law that removed the option for voters without photo identification to cast ballots if they sign affidavits affirming their identity.

The other measures would 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.

The measures were challenged in a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, Arkansas United and five voters. The groups had argued that keeping Griffen’s injunction in place would ensure voters’ rights aren’t burdened.

“We are disappointed by the stay, of course, but remain confident that the court will affirm the circuit court’s decision once the full record is before the court,” Bonnie Miller, president of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, said in a statement. “The League is committed to defending the voting rights of all Arkansas voters.”