No doubt many of you remember our friend Representative Bryan King (soon to be Senator King) who has been raising awareness about voter fraud in Arkansas. In fact, Rep. King even sent a letter to a U.S. Attorney, requesting a formal investigation into fraud in Lee County, AR — which seems odd, since we have it on good authority that voter fraud does not exist in Arkansas.
Nonetheless, Rep. King is moving forward to reform Arkansas elections: yesterday, he filed two bills — SB2 and SJR1 — that would require Arkansans to show identification before voting. SB2, which you can read here, is simply a statutory measure that would require ID. SJR1, on the other hand, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize voter ID laws. Think of it as sort of a “backup plan” in case SB2 were for some reason struck down by the courts. SJR1, if passed by the legislature, would then be referred to the voters for approval on the ballot.
As for the details of SB2, here’s an overview:
- Voters at the polls would be required to show a current photo ID that expired no more than 4 years before the date of the election and was issued by the US government or the state of Arkansas.
- Absentee voters would be required to submit with the ballot a copy of a current and valid photo identification or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
- A person who is a resident of a licensed nursing home, licensed residential care facility, licensed assisted-living facility, or any licensed facility that provides long-term medical or personal care would not be required to provide proof of identity before voting.
- Someone who does not bring an ID to the polls will be given a provisional ballot and could have their vote counted if they provide proof of identity by 12 p.m. on the Monday after the election or provide an affidavit expressing religious objection to being photographed or stating that the person is indigent.
The bill also states that the Secretary of State shall issue voter identification cards that include photos to individuals without valid drivers’ licenses and will be of voting age by the next election — at no charge. This provision would seem to eliminate many of the “disenfranchisement” concerns espoused by opponents of reasonable election reform.
The filing of these bills comes as no huge surprise: Republicans promised election reform as part of their platform in the 2012 election, and Rep. King told me back in November that election reform would be a big part of his agenda for the 2013 session. Overall, these proposals seem to embrace common sense while adequately addressing potential constitutional concerns.
As always, stay tuned to The Arkansas Project for further developments on these bills and other policy issues facing the state legislature.