LWV of Arkansas and individual plaintiffs filed a federal court challenge to Arkansas’ requirements for absentee ballots, seeking remedial action prior to the November 2020 election. The suit claimed that Arkansas’ signature match requirement, and the lack of an effective notice and cure process, violate voters’ due process rights and fundamental rights to vote.
In the 2018 Arkansas general election, over 15,000 absentee ballots were rejected. The voters whose ballots were rejected were not notified by the state until after the election had occurred, and many voters were not given an opportunity to remedy the issue. Their votes simply did not count.
In 2020, LWV Arkansas and individual plaintiffs filed suit in federal court seeking to change the process, requiring the state to provide voters notice that their ballots were being rejected, and an opportunity to fix the issue. Plaintiffs argued that Arkansas’ policy violates voters’ fundamental right to vote, as well as the constitutional right to due process.
The plaintiffs seek an order requiring Arkansas to notify voters of mistakes on absentee ballots, such as missing or mismatched signatures, dates of birth, or voting addresses. Voters would then have the opportunity to fix the error until three days after the election. Arkansas has a similar policy in place for provisional ballots – ballots cast without proper voter identification are marked as provisional and voters are given the opportunity to return until the Monday following the election to verify their eligibility to vote.
The case is currently proceeding through discovery.
LWV Arkansas is represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, David A. Couch PLLC, Caprock Law Firm PLLC, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Plaintiffs file first amended complaint
Plaintiffs file motion for preliminary injunction
Plaintiffs file a motion for a preliminary injunction, asserting Arkansas law violated procedural due process by not providing a sufficient notice and cure procedure for signature deficiencies.
Court denies motion for preliminary injunction
The court denies the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, finding the plaintiffs were unlikely to suffer the irreparable harm of having their absentee ballots rejected for signature mismatch. The court cites guidance provided by the state to county elections officials directing them reject absentee ballots for signature mismatch, "only if there is a distinct and easily recognizable difference between the signature on the absentee ballot application and the voter statement." According to the court, this means it is unlikely the inconsistencies in plaintiffs' signatures cited in the complaint will cause their absentee ballots to be rejected. The ruling also cites the potential disruption of instituting a notice and cure process when absentee voting is already underway.
Plaintiffs file second amended complaint
Court allows plaintiffs' claims to proceed
The court rules plaintiffs may proceed with their claims against defendants, with the exception of the due process claim, which is dismissed, and the claim of an individual plaintiff whose passing moots the claim.
Court grants summary judgment to defendants
The court grants summary judgment to the defendants and dismisses LWV Arkansas and its co-plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. The court's opinion states that under the Anderson-Burdick test, matching requirements for names, address, date of birth and signatures were minimal burdens on the right to vote, did not outweigh the state's interest in preventing fraud, and constituted reasonable, nondiscriminatory regulations. The court also ruled the regulations at issue did not violate the Materiality Provisions of the Civil Rights Act.