WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, an Arkansas trial judge entered a written order officially blocking four new voter suppression laws, ruling they all violate the Arkansas Constitution’s right to vote. This order solidifies an oral ruling that Judge Wendell Griffen handed down from the bench last Friday, the final day of a four-day trial. This is the first court ruling addressing voter suppression laws passed following the 2020 election. Striking down these laws will expand voting access in a state with historically low voter turnout due to decades of voter suppression.
In a lawsuit filed in May 2021, the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, Arkansas United and individual voters sued over four new laws that severely restricted access to the ballot box. After hearing from witnesses and experts on the effects of these laws, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the laws do not promote election security and instead impose burdens on voters, particularly among minority voters. The judge explicitly rejected the defendants’ main arguments during the trial that these laws were designed to “ensure election integrity” and prevent voter fraud, concluding that, based on the complete lack of voter fraud presented by the defendants, the “uncontradicted proof in this case is that there is no evidence of fraudulent voting in Arkansas, whether in person or by absentee ballot.” You can read more about the challenged laws here.
Breaking down the lack of evidence presented by the defendants, the judge admonished that “the evidence presented during the trial of this lawsuit demonstrates that [the challenged laws] are based entirely on conjecture, speculation, surmise, misinformation, and fear-mongering about allegations of voter fraud and election insecurity. Defendants concede that concerns about voter fraud and election insecurity in Arkansas are baseless and fabricated. Conjecture, speculation, surmise, misinformation, baseless, and fabricated concerns about voter fraud and election insecurity does not constitute competent evidence.”
The defendants in the case, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) and all six members of the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, filed a notice of appeal within an hour of the judge’s order being released.