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Early voting begins for primary election in Arkansas

Posted on May 8, 2018

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Thousands of Arkansas residents cast ballots Monday on the first day of early voting for the state's May 22 primary and non-partisan judicial election, days after the state Supreme Court said officials can enforce a voter ID law that a judge declared unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office said more than 4,100 voters had cast an early ballot by late afternoon Monday, though that figure did not include all 75 counties. Martin has not predicted how many of the state's 1.7 million registered voters will cast a ballot in this year's primary. Twenty-one percent of voters cast a ballot in the last mid-term primary in 2014, while 38 percent voted in the 2016 primary.

The early voting period kicks off the first statewide election held under the 2017 law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Justices last week put a hold on a Pulaski County judge's order preventing the state from enforcing the law in the primary. Judge Alice Gray had ruled the law was unconstitutional effort to reinstate a 2013 voter ID law that was struck down by the state's highest court in 2014.

Opponents of the voter ID law, which is being challenged by a Little Rock voter who had sued over the previous ID requirement, said they were monitoring its enforcement.

"Whenever we've had the voter ID law or other changes in voting and other changes in voting and elections, we've seen that it's pretty standard that different polling places enforce or implement those rules in different ways," said Holly Dickson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which isn't involved in the current litigation over the law. "So we are concerned there may be some overzealous implementation of the law itself."

Marquez Miller, who voted in the Democratic primary in downtown Little Rock on Monday, said he didn't mind the requirement being enforced.

"I don't see a big hassle about it…That way, we don't have issues about whether you're registered to vote or if you're voting twice or if you're voting illegal," Miller said.

The election has been dominated in recent days by six-figure television ad buys by outside conservative groups in the race for a state Supreme Court seat. Justice Courtney Goodson is running for re-election against Department of Human Services Chief Counsel David Sterling and state Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson.