Arkansas’ highest court on Wednesday struck down a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, ruling the requirement unconstitutional just days before early voting begins for the Nov. 4 election.
The high court noted that the Arkansas constitution lists specific requirements to vote: that a person be a citizen of the United States and resident of Arkansas, be at least 18 years old and be lawfully registered. Anything beyond that amounts to a new requirement and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled.
Arkansas is among a handful of states where voter-ID requirements have been in limbo. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed new restrictions to take effect in North Carolina but blocked Wisconsin’s voter-ID requirement.
Wednesday’s ruling could affect political races in Arkansas, where early voting is set to begin Monday.
The Republican-led legislature approved the voter-ID law last year, overriding a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe (D), and it took effect Jan. 1. It was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center on behalf of four voters the groups said would be disenfranchised by the requirement.
Nearly three decades into a prison sentence he began as a teenager, a New York man who had been championed by boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter walked free Wednesday after a judge vacated his murder conviction at a prosecutor’s request.
David McCallum was 16 years old in 1986 when a jury in Brooklyn found him and Willie Stuckey Jr. guilty of kidnapping and murdering Nathan Blenner the previous year. McCallum, now 45, had been in a state prison ever since. Stuckey, whose conviction also was quashed Wednesday, died in prison in 2001.
After reviewing their cases, Ken Thompson, who became Brooklyn’s district attorney in January, asked Judge Matthew D’Emic to quash the convictions, saying both men’s confessions were false and contradicted by evidence.
Carter, the former professional boxer who spent 19 years in prison on what was later ruled a wrongful murder conviction, became an advocate for McCallum and, before his death in April, said it was his final wish that McCallum be released.
An appeals court on Wednesday struck down a voter-approved Arizona law that denied bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.
An 11-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the law violated due-process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The court also said the law was a “scattershot attempt” at confronting people who flee from authorities and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a critical problem.
Proponents of the 2006 statute said it prevented people who aren’t authorized to be in the country and skip out on their bail from committing future offenses. Critics said the law’s real intent was to punish immigrants before they were convicted of crimes.
An aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was sued as part of the challenge to the law, said he thinks the sheriff’s office will ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider its opinion and, if that doesn’t succeed, will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.