FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On August 19, a federal judge ruled that the State of Arkansas violated the Voting Rights Act by limiting help to some voters.
In a 38-page opinion and order, Judge Timothy L. Brooks in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville ruled in favor of Arkansas United, the plaintiffs in a suit against the Secretary of State of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners and several other co-defendants.
At issue in the suit was Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act and an Arkansas statute that “forbids individuals from assisting more than six voters in casting their ballot,” according to court documents. The judge ruled that the federal law in Section 208, which allows voters who require assistance due to an inability to read or write to have the assistor of the voter’s choice, takes precedent over the local statute.
The judge’s ruling “permanently enjoins” the state and county defendants and their employees from enforcing the local law “or otherwise engaging in any practice that limits the rights secured” by the federal Voting Rights Act.
The court also ordered that Assisted Voter Cards used in future elections be updated to remove any reference to a six-voter limit for assistance. The order also requires all trainings, manuals, websites and materials given to voters or voter assistors to be updated to remove any references to the six-voter limit.
A footnote noted that the court does not expect “already produced training materials and/or conducted trainings in advance of the 2022 General Election” to be updated before November, stating that federal courts “must be cautious in burdening state election officials in the run-up to an election.”
“For the 2022 General Election, Defendants must simply inform their employees and volunteers to not enforce the six-voter limit and update the text on the Assisted Voter Card,” Judge Brooks added.