Arkansas Legislature Approves Voter ID Requirement

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013 4:55 pm  

The Arkansas Capitol Building in Little Rock. (Photo by Stephanie Dunn)

Republicans around the country have been pushing for similar laws in other states, though the measures have faced court challenges. Voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have been blocked.

The head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said the group is "looking into all options" if the bill becomes law and urged Beebe to veto it. Opponents of the measure say it would disenfranchise senior citizens, minorities and the poor.

"Nothing is more fundamental in our democracy than the right to vote, and that right is under attack in Arkansas," said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas' executive director.

An opponent of the bill said the wrangling over the two-thirds vote was partly intended to help with that potential court challenge. The objections focused on claims the legislation changes a state constitutional amendment regarding voter registration. That amendment says lawmakers can only change the registration process with a two-thirds majority vote.

"At least the court will be on notice that this was something that was very contentious and the court needs to decide," said Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff.

Supporters of King's bill, however, said the voter ID requirement wouldn't change the registration process so the higher vote threshold shouldn't apply.

Beebe's office said the governor is waiting on an opinion from the attorney general's office on whether the measure would violate the state constitution before saying what he'll do with the bill. Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Tuesday that the governor's concerns about bill's constitutionality focus on whether it imposes additional qualifications for voters, not on questions over the way the bill was approved.

"Substantively, I'm not sure how much of a huge change it is one way or the other. It's a little change," Beebe told reporters Monday. "The real question for me is does it change qualification for voting pursuant to the constitution? That's what we've got to get an answer to."

If Beebe vetoes the voter ID bill, lawmakers can override him with a simple majority in the House and Senate. The Republican-led Legislature has already overridden Beebe's vetoes of two abortion restrictions, including one that would ban the procedure 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

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