Next Stop For Voter ID In Arkansas: The Governor's Desk

Mar 19, 2013

Sen. Bryan King waits before the chamber voted on the voter ID bill.
Credit Nathan Vandiver

A bill to require Arkansas voters to show a valid photo ID before casting a ballot is on it’s way to the Governor after clearing its final hurdle in the Senate today.

The bill was already passed by the Senate, but it picked up an amendment in the House, so today’s vote was to adopt the amendment. The measure passed 22-12.

Opponents of the bill say it’s an unnecessary barrier to voting for poor and older voters. Speaking passionately on the Senate floor against the bill, Senator Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock likened the voter ID requirement to undue hardships imposed on black voters to keep them from voting.

"I never dreamed that I would have to face the same kind of things. It might not mean that to you, it obviously does not, but I am telling you that unless we are fixing today a problem that you can demonstrate exists, there is no compelling reason to do this," Elliott said.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Bryan King of Green Forest, says requiring voters to show ID will only strengthen the democratic process.

"We addressed those concerns and I can see where they're coming from on their concerns, but the reality is, as we've looked at other states, that voter turn out has went up when they passed this. As to the [voter] suppression thing, we've debated that and been through that, the part about the poll tax we made it where they just have to go to the County Clerk's office and they get an ID to be able to vote,  I mean, we've made this pretty simple," King said.

The next stop is Governor Mike Beebe’s desk. He hasn’t said whether he’ll sign it, but he says he’s asked the Attorney General about the constitutionality of the law.

Curently, under Arkansas law, poll workers are required to ask for photo ID, but voters are not required to show it.

The bill also contains a provision that says the state will provide an ID for any voter who doesn't already have one.