House backs voter-ID bill, sends it on to Hutchin­son

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRIAN FANNEY

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.

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