Arkansas Case Challenging Voter Suppression Laws Moves Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a judge in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas formally denied a motion to dismiss League of Women Voters of Arkansas v. Thurston, a case challenging four voter suppression laws enacted earlier this year. The defendants, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) and six members of the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, sought to have the case thrown out by arguing that the plaintiffs failed to state claims for which the court can grant relief and they lacked standing. They also alleged that the defendants are protected from the lawsuit by sovereign immunity. The court rejected each of those arguments, holding that the plaintiffs included sufficient factual allegations in their complaint and have standing because they adequately alleged potential harms related to the named defendants. Finally, the court held that since the case raises state constitutional questions, the defendants are not protected by sovereign immunity. This order solidifies a ruling from the bench delivered during a hearing on the motion to dismiss in early October.

The laws at the center of this lawsuit affect every aspect of the election process: House Bill 1715 establishes a new absentee ballot application signature-match requirement; Senate Bill 643 limits the absentee ballot return period; House Bill 1112 requires voters who lack proper ID when casting their ballots to bring a form of identification to the county clerk’s office within six days; and Senate Bill 486 bans anyone except voters from coming within 100 feet of a polling place, including volunteers who are distributing food and water to voters in long lines. The lawsuit claims that all four laws violate the Arkansas Constitution because they infringe on the right to vote, treat similarly-situated classes of voters differently, as some laws disproportionately burden voters of color, and/or violate the right to free speech and assembly.

Read the order here.