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Arkansas Senate overrides veto of voter ID bill

by The Associated Press | March 27, 2013 at 3:47 p.m. | Updated March 27, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
The Arkansas Senate overrode Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of Senate Bill 2 on Wednesday afternoon. The bill would require voters to show identification at polling stations. In this file photo, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock on Monday. Beebe vetoed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at polls.

The Arkansas Senate voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

The Republican-led Senate voted 21-12 to override the veto. The state House has yet to vote on it. Each chamber needs only a simple majority to override a veto in Arkansas.

Beebe vetoed the bill Monday, saying it amounts to "an expensive solution in search of a problem" and would unnecessarily infringe on voters' rights. The bill would require the state to provide free photo IDs to voters who don't have one at an estimated cost of $300,000.

Arkansas currently requires poll workers to ask for identification, but voters can still cast a ballot if they don't have one.

While Arkansas poll workers must ask for identification under current law, voters don't have to show it to cast a ballot. The identification poll workers can ask for currently includes forms without photos, such as a government check or a utility bill.

Under the new legislation, voters unable to present a photo ID at polling stations would be allowed to cast provisional ballots. But those ballots would be counted only if voters provide ID to county election officials or if they sign an affidavit stating they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed before noon on the Monday following an election.

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

Arkansas Republicans had pushed for voter ID requirements for years, but the measure failed to reach the governor's desk under Democratic majorities. Republicans won control of both chambers of the Legislature in November for the first time in 138 years and have been busy advancing their conservative agenda, including passing more restrictive abortion laws and less restrictive gun ownership laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has called the requirement unconstitutional, and its executive director said the group was looking at its options after lawmakers gave the measure final approval. Opponents of the measure say it would disenfranchise senior citizens, minorities and the poor.

The bill would exempt voters who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Beebe said Monday he was vetoing the bill because voter fraud hasn't been shown to be a problem.

"At a time when some argue for the reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy and for reduced government spending, I find it ironic to be presented with a bill that increases government bureaucracy and increases government expenditures, all to address a need that has not been demonstrated," Beebe wrote in his veto letter. "I cannot approve such an unnecessary measure that would negatively impact one of our most precious rights as citizens."

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more details.


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