Arkansas and Kansas: Voter ID Battlegrounds

You might get whiplash trying to keep up with all the changes and legal back-and-forth on voting laws.

This week the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a ruling by a county judge that called the state's strict photo ID law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, in Kansas, the League of Women Voters is taking on the state's law requiring new registrants to show proof of citizenship.

Arkansas has one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. After Judge Tim Fox ruled it unconstitutional, unenforceable, and void, the Arkansas Attorney General appealed the decision. The county judge's ruling was then stayed, so that voters in next Tuesday's congressional primary election would still have had to show ID. Now, the Arkansas Supreme Court has "vacated" the original ruling. This doesn't mean that the Supreme Court has found the law constitutional. It just says that the county judge overstepped his authority. In fact, this decision could lead to a reexamination of the voter ID law's constitutionality by the Court.

Kansas' ID law applies to voter registration. Organizations that run voter registration drives in Kansas, like HeadCount, must now ask for photocopies of naturalization papers, passports, or birth certificates at the point of registration. If new registrants can't supply those documents, or if organizations like HeadCount can't make copies, the registrants must submit their documents later to their County Election Office.

LWV reg table

As a workaround, The League of Women Voters had begun registering voters at naturalization ceremonies to ensure that registrants had proof of citizenship with them. Now, they've filed suit with a federal appeals court after they were barred from making photocopies by immigration authorities. The LWV has also reported problems registering people whose names do not exactly match their IDs, such as married women. As of this week, almost 18,000 Kansans' registrations are on hold, awaiting further documentation.

Nationwide, a debate is raging over whether ID laws like those in play in Arkansas and Kansas represent voter suppression or reasonable measures to prevent fraudulent voting. While the laws present new challenges to voters, America must decide: are they worth it?