LITTLE ROCK — The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to require Arkansas voters to show photo ID at the polls.
House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, passed in a 25-8 vote, reaching with one vote to spare the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage in the 35-member Senate.
The bill passed in the House in a 74-21 vote in January and now goes back to that chamber for concurrence in Senate amendments.
Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, was the only Senate Democrat to join with Republicans in voting for the bill Wednesday. Democrats cast all the votes against it.
Under the bill, a voter who did not show photo ID at his or her polling place could cast a provisional ballot. The voter would be given the option of signing a sworn statement that the voter is who he or she claims to be, and the county clerk would compare the signature to the signature on the voter registration card issued to that person to see if they match and the ballot should be counted.
Alternatively, a voter casting a provisional ballot could choose to show photo ID to the county clerk or county election board before noon on the Monday after the election to have the ballot counted.
The bill also would require that a copy of a voter’s photo ID be submitted with an absentee ballot. It would allow an absentee voter to sign a statement that could be used to verify the person’s identity if no photo ID is submitted.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office would be required to provide for the issuance of voter identification cards with photos to registered voters who request them from their county clerk. The cards would be issued free of charge.
The Senate passed Lowery’s bill a day after giving final legislative approval to House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo ID. The Senate vote cleared the way the proposal to be on the November 2018 ballot.
Both measures seek to reinstate a voter ID requirement that the Republican-controlled Legislature approved in 2013, overriding a veto by then Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014, in a challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, that the law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding qualifications for voting that went beyond those established in the constitution.
Lowery’s bill received no debate on the Senate floor on Wednesday, but the issue has been debated there and elsewhere during the session. Supporters of a voter ID requirement say it would inspire confidence in the integrity of elections; opponents say it would disenfranchise some eligible voters while addressing an issue, voter impersonation at the polls, that has not been shown to exist.