A state judge in Arkansas has overturned a quartet of new legislation approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison, which they claimed were designed to ensure voting integrity in forthcoming and future elections.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, whose verdicts are frequently overturned, “permanently enjoined the laws—Acts 249, 728, 736, and 973—on March 18 following a four-day trial,” according to The Epoch Times. “The statutes are part of a countrywide surge of new state-level election regulations enacted in the aftermath of anomalies in the 2020 presidential election.”
Even during trial, Griffen reportedly told the defendants, including Arkansas’ Republican Secretary of State John Thurston, that they had not adequately demonstrated a need for the new laws and that the state’s concerns about election integrity were “based entirely on conjecture and speculation,” which “cannot be allowed to supply the place of proof.”
Griffen stated that a more complete ruling would be issued at a later date. The case was filed by the League of Women Voters of Arkansas (LWVAR), Arkansas United, and five voters, according to the Epoch Times. They alleged that the statutes disadvantaged voters of color disproportionately. Bonnie Miller, president of the LWVAR, expressed her satisfaction with the court’s judgment on social media.
“We are celebrating this win for democracy and are convinced that justice will prevail despite the attorney general’s unavoidable appeal,” Miller said. State Rep. Andrew Collins, a Democrat, also supported the decision.
“Each of these legislation, approved under a deluge of disinformation, represents a counterproductive’solution’ in pursuit of a problem,” he tweeted. “While meaningful election security is crucial, these laws aren’t required to accomplish it, and they make it more difficult for individuals to vote legally.”
Act 249, according to the site, dealt with how provisional ballots are counted. Act 728, enacted in response to concerns about groups providing food and water to voters, made it illegal for anybody to be within 100 feet of a polling station unless they were entering or exiting the institution. Act 736, a ballot harvesting act, declared that the possession of more than four absentee ballots by an individual “creates a rebuttable suspicion of intent to deceive.” Act 973 shortened the time required for voters to request absentee ballots.
State Sen. Kim Hammer, a Republican who supported the new legislation, told CNN last year that it was about “preserving the integrity of the vote.” “These were derived from true situations that happened here in the state,” he added, adding that lawmakers wrote the legislation in collaboration with local election authorities.
Other state legislators who backed the proposal expressed their dissatisfaction as well. “States should be given the freedom to defend the integrity of the vote box,” Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters. “The [Arkansas] Supreme Court will have the chance to consider the validity of these legislation.”
One of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s aides said the AG would analyze the verdict and then determine what to do next, but Griffen’s finding is likely to be challenged. “The Attorney General is dedicated to fighting for the integrity of Arkansas elections,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Sharp in a statement.
Griffen, on the other hand, has a tumultuous history in the state. While he is “renowned for his left-wing activity,” according to The Epoch Times, some Republican state legislators have called for his impeachment.
“Some compare Griffen to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former President Barack Obama’s pastor whose fiery sermons blasted the United States as an inherently racist country,” The Epoch Times reported.
Griffen is also a Baptist preacher known for wearing an African dashiki when delivering sermons, as Wright did. “Griffen was forbidden from hearing cases that might lead to the death sentence after attending an anti-capital punishment rally outside the governor’s home in 2017 while tied to a cot as if ready to be killed by lethal injection,” the site continued.
According to Arkansas Money and Politics, Griffen stated, “White nationalism and white male dominance never left this country.” It is “that somehow the nation had moved on past the hatred, fear, and sexism.”