- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Republican Party wants to intervene in a lawsuit over how absentee ballots are handled under the state’s new voter ID law, arguing that the state’s Democratic attorney general can’t adequately represent GOP voters.

The GOP on Wednesday asked a Pulaski County judge to allow it to help defend the state Board of Election Commissioners for adopting a rule that gives absentee voters additional time to show proof of ID. The Pulaski County Election Commission claimed in a lawsuit earlier this month that the state panel overstepped its bounds with the new rule.

The rule allows voters who did not submit required identification with their absentee ballot to turn in the documents for their vote to be counted by noon Monday following an election. It mirrors an identical “cure period” the law gives to voters who fail to show identification at the polls.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a legal opinion in February in which he said absentee voters could not be given additional time to cast ballots, because that wasn’t specified in the law. His opinion conflicted with advice that the Republican secretary of state’s office had given to local election officials.

The GOP argued that McDaniel “has put himself in a legal box from which there is no escape.”

“This action therefore represents the classic example of the fox guarding the hen house,” the Republican Party said in its filing. “Arkansas Republican voters are being attacked on two fronts. One comes from the attorney general. The other from Pulaski County election officials.”

McDaniel pushed back against the GOP arguments.

“This is not a partisan matter,” McDaniel said in a statement. “This is about defending the actions of a state board, which is something my office does effectively every single day.”

The GOP also filed a proposed motion to dismiss the Pulaski panel’s lawsuit if the party is allowed to intervene.

The Republican-led Legislature approved the voter ID law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said it plans to ask a state judge to block the law.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ademillo

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