2013 General AssemblyArkansas LegislatureVoter FraudVoter ID

Why Voter ID Does Not Require a Supermajority Vote

photo-id-required-bar-sign-s-5218Since the voter ID bill cleared House committee last week, opponents of election reform have been scrambling to derail it. I wrote last week about their unwittingly hilarious attempts to stop voter ID due to the cost. Keep in mind: the cost of the bill, by the state’s own estimates, is 0.0065% of the state’s annual Medicaid budget. After the hysteria over the bill’s cost died down, the liberal blogosphere began heating up with speculation that the bill (SB2) was not legitimately passed by the Senate because it only got 23 votes. According to Amendment 51 of the state constitution, they said, it would require 24 votes or a “supermajority.”

Then today, Rep. Jim Nickels rose on the House floor to raise a point of order, claiming that SB2 was improperly before the House because it did not obtain the requisite number of votes. Speaker Davy Carter then referred the issue back to the House Rules Committee for further examination. The bill now resides in the hands of that committee.

But fear not proponents of election integrity: I made an inquiry with Advance Arkansas Institute President Dan Greenberg for a definitive answer on this issue. In short, Greenberg told me the concerns raised by Nickels and others are unfounded:

Regarding Amendment 51 and in particular whether Amendment 51 requires a 2/3 vote on King’s SB 2: it does not. To put it politely, the idea that Amendment 51 is relevant to SB 2 is highly confused. Amendment 51 is relevant only to voter registration, while SB 2 is relevant to the regulation of actual voting, which is of course very different.

Amendment 51 supplies conditions for amending Amendment 51. So if we are to amend Amendment 51, there are only two ways to do it. We could do it thru the conventional amendment process (vote of the people, etc.) or through the special 2/3 legislative vote provision (no vote of the people required after a 2/3 legislative vote). But it is important to note that either of these options would change the Constitution by amending it. Because SB 2 doesn’t change the constitution or amend it, it is entirely irrelevant to Amendment 51. Passage of SB 2 will not change or amend the constitution at all; it’s a bill and not an amendment, so bringing up the 2/3 requirement (for legislative constitutional amendment) is irrelevant and confused.

Translation: the concerns raised by Nickels are apples and oranges.

Greenberg continued:

Note also that it is difficult or impossible to make the case that SB 2 changes voter registration procedures at all. There are only two places where SB 2 discusses voter registration. In Section 3 of SB 2, the bill changes the code references and numbering, but does not change the substance of the code. In Section 4, there is language that changes the regulation of voting, but does not change the registration procedure. The argument that either of these provisions changes voter registration is very weak (in the case of Section 3, it is completely empty).

When Amendment 51 is considered in its full context, it seems to be clearly irrelevant to the issue of voter ID/SB2. It always does my heart good to see politicians suddenly concerned about the constitutionality of a particular bill, but in this case their concerns misfire.

Stay tuned to TheArkansasProject.com for further developments on the voter ID bill and other important issues facing the legislature.

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7 thoughts on “Why Voter ID Does Not Require a Supermajority Vote

  • Pingback: The Arkansas Project — Rep. John Walker Says Voter ID Means Black Legislators Aren’t Really Legislators

  • James Johnson

    So I don’t need an I.D. to register to vote under Amendment 51, Amendment 51 doesn’t say anything about voting. This new law says that I need an ID to vote. O.K. so I can register to vote without an ID but then I can’t go to the poll and vote without one? and your telling me that is apple and oranges?

    • Yep. You can register to vote and never go out and vote. Lots of folks do it. So, they are not changing the requirements for voter registration, they are changing the requirements for what happens when you show up at the polling place on election day. The requirements for registering to do something and actually doing it can be different.

      You can get a driver’s license without having liability insurance, even though you need the liability insurance to legally own a car to drive. Why, in America you have every right to be born without insurance (at least in states like Arkansas and North Dakota – other states significantly limit your right to be born) but the minute you pop out of that womb and take your first breath you’d better have health insurance.

      • James Johnson

        its weird because the Arkansas Constitution outlines what it actually takes to vote in Arkansas- for you to “actually do it” Under Article 3 section 1 its states, ” Except as otherwise provide in this constitution, any person may VOTE in an election in this state who is:
        1. A citizen of the United States;
        2. A resident of the State of Arkansas;
        3. At least eighteen years of age; and
        4. Lawfully registered to vote in the election(Amendment 51)

        Under SB2 I can have all 4 things here and not be able to VOTE. because I don’t have to have a id to register, so please explain how SB2 doesn’t violate Article 3 Section 1?

  • James, the way voter ID works is this: it is a *test* to make sure that you, the voter, have all four of these qualifications. It is not a fifth qualification; it is a way to test to make sure that you, the voter, have all four of the constitutional qualifications. If I may repeat myself. If you just showed up and supplied my name when asked to identify yourself, you don’t seriously think that you’d honestly meet all four of the tests, do you? The ID requirement is a method of supplying proof that the voter is qualified; it isn’t a fifth test.

    • James Johnson

      if I showed up and tried to vote for you, The first thing they do is ask me for you Bday, and your address. So I would have to know that Information. Second, when I signed for you, they compare that signature with the one they have on the voter registration. (this is all right because it is required under Amendment 51, to register) if it doesn’t look the same only then can they ask for ID, and that can be a number of things like a bill, or DL etc.

      Also, if the ID is a test of the other four qualifications, is that why the concealed carry card has people’s birthdate (the 3rd qualification) on it right? also read this case Rison v. Farr from the Arkansas Supreme Court, and tell me how that is any different?

      • James, I am starting to get the idea that you are arguing just for the sake of arguing. A voter’s name and address is public information, so it isn’t very difficult to acquire. Furthermore, I don’t think that a signature check by the election judge offers much in the way of security. It’s very far from (for instance) something like a fingerprint that obviously passes or fails a test of identity. Finally, I have no idea what the relevance of the concealed carry card is to this discussion.

        I am getting the sense that you oppose this law. Many of the critics of this law were themselves criticized for producing very weak arguments, and at this point I have to say that you have not advanced the ball.


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