In case you missed it, Dahlia Lithwick had this wonderful post last week in which she noted the irony underlying a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision rejecting that state’s voter ID law.
The court there based its ruling upon an 1865 decision protecting a confederate soldier’s right to vote under the state’s constitution — which required only that voters be U.S. citizens of a certain age, registered to vote, and living in the county where voting. As Lithwick noted, “modified versions of four of these qualifications (being a U.S. citizen, a resident of Arkansas, at least 18 years old, and lawfully registered to vote) are still the law in Arkansas.”
Just to be perfectly clear as to what just happened here, the Arkansas Supreme Court relied on a post–Civil War case restoring the franchise to former Confederate soldiers, including some who had slaughtered former slaves, to strike down a new voter ID law that would have suppressed the vote of minorities.
Lithwick credited University of Richmond Law School Professor John Pagan with pointing out the court’s precedent, and passed along this comment from Pagan in an email message to her:
My great-great grandfather, who served in an Arkansas regiment of the Confederate Army from 1861-65, was disenfranchised under the 1864 statute held unconstitutional in Rison. That the restoration of his voting rights by judicial decision in 1865 should provide the constitutional basis for preventing the disenfranchisement of enslaved people’s descendants in 2014 has to be one of the most remarkable turnabouts in the legal history of the South.