House backs voter-ID bill, sends it on to Hutchinson
The House gave approval Monday to a bill aimed at resurrecting the requirements of a voter-identification law that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014.
House Bill 1047, by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, heads to the governor’s desk after the House in a 73-12 vote concurred with several Senate amendments.
Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution authorizes lawmakers to amend voter-registration measures if at least two-thirds of both houses of the General Assembly approve the changes.
Proponents of voter-identification laws see the increased requirements as a way to prevent voter impersonation and fraud. Opponents say there is little fraud and that such laws unduly restrict the right to vote and impose unnecessary burdens on election administrators.
The bill would require voters to display photo identification before casting ballots. It also would require the secretary of state to issue free photo identification cards to those who lack other acceptable identification.
HB1047 would allow a person without photo ID to sign a sworn statement stating that the voter is registered in this state.
Identification that would be accepted includes driver’s licenses, photo identification cards, concealed-handgun carry licenses, U.S. passports, employee badges or identification documents, student identification cards issued by accredited Arkansas colleges and universities, U.S. military identification documents, public-assistance identification cards, and free voter-verification cards.
The secretary of state’s office already has equipment for each county to provide the free cards because of the struck-down law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed suit over the 2013 law and has raised concerns about HB1047. Four of the court’s seven justices ruled that the law improperly added a qualification to the voter qualifications in the state’s constitution. According to the constitution, Arkansas voters need only be age 18 or older, U.S. citizens, Arkansas residents and properly registered to vote.
Earlier this month, the Legislature approved a separate proposal to refer to voters in the 2018 general election a constitutional amendment on requiring voter identification at the polls.