Arkansas Voters Complain About Quizzing By Poll Workers Checking IDs

A roll of "I Voted" stickers sits on a ballot box at a Little Rock, Ark., polling place, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Arkansas' party primary elections were held Tuesday. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
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Tuesday primaries marked the first state-wide election in Arkansas since the state’s new voter ID law went into effect earlier this year. And there were problems.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has received numerous complaints from voters who say poll workers “quizzed” them about the information on their IDs, one of the organization’s officials told TPM on Wednesday.

“It’s not one or two specific locations, we’re hearing about it in various locations around the state,” Holly Dickson, legal director at ACLU of Arkansas, said in an interview. “There may have been a coordinated effort to have poll workers enforce the law this way — that remains to be seen, of course.”

The complaints received by the ACLU were similar in nature to those reported on by Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times, an alt weekly in Little Rock. He first noted reports of it on Tuesday while the election was still taking place. Then on Wednesday, Brantley posted several first-person accounts from voters on the newspaper’s website.

“I was quizzed about my name, address and birthdate while the election volunteer held my license where I couldn’t see it,” one reader wrote to Brantley. “Is that also part of the photo ID law? I mean, my drivers license does have my photo right there on the front… Are we testing for fake IDs now, too?”

“I voted in the Democratic primary at Temple Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas. I was asked many questions,” another reader told Brantley. “The little old lady was pleasant and I was nice to her but I was asked to specifically mention that the word ‘Place’ was in my street address in addition to the street name, etc.”

Quizzes are not part of the new law. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: poll workers are instructed to ask each voter for their name, their address, and their date of birth. After that, the poll workers ask for ID, which they are supposed to use to verify names and compare faces to photographs. But that’s not the procedure encountered by the voters voicing complaints.

Dickson said her organization — which is currently challenging the constitutionality of the voter ID law in state courts — began getting the complaints earlier this month, after early voting began. The “inconsistencies” under the new law, she said, were “interfering with people’s constitutional right to vote.”

“Within the last week we started receiving complaints from voters about vehement enforcement … from poll workers,” she said. “We’ve been encouraging them to file complaints with the Arkansas state Board of Elections.”

Justin Clay, the director of Arkansas’ Board of Election Commissioners, told TPM on Wednesday morning his agency had not yet received any complaints about the issue.

“I can tell you that poll workers, from our perspective anyway, poll workers were trained on the correct process,” Clay said.

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