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Arkansas lawmaker files bill requiring document, ID card to vote

by Brian Fanney | December 13, 2016 at 1:42 p.m.
Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, closes for his bill dealing with creation of new school districts in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.

One lawmaker wants to resurrect the requirements of a voter identification bill that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014.

Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, filed a bill Tuesday that would require voters to show a document or identification card to verify their registration.

"I think it's important to protect the integrity of the ballot," he said in an interview. "There are a lot of instances in our day-to-day life where photo ID is required, and it just seems to me to not be so big a stretch to say that something as important as a vote be verified by photo ID."

Lowery said he believes the bill would hold up to a legal argument if it is passed by a two-thirds supermajority.

"The main thing I did when asking the staff attorneys to write it was to take a look at the Supreme Court ruling and write it in such a way that it deals with those objections," he said.

In 2013, the Legislature passed a voter identification bill sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest.

The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union then sued. The group contended that such laws adversely affect the elderly, the poor and members of minority groups in the state.

The lawsuit went to the Arkansas Supreme Court. At the time, four of the court's justices said the law added a qualification to the voter qualifications long enshrined in the state's constitution. According to Article 3, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, in order to vote, Arkansans need only be older than age 18, U.S. citizens, Arkansas residents and properly registered to vote.

The requirement that voters present identification at the polls was tantamount to a fifth qualification, according to an opinion written by Justice Donald Corbin.

Corbin and three other justices said the voter-ID law "is unconstitutional on its face."

The voter-identification law was vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe in March 2013, and lawmakers overrode his veto. Neither of those votes reached the two-thirds threshold.

"I think the main issue was the two-thirds vote, so we're going to take another run at it," Lowery said Tuesday.

He said critics of voter identification laws have overblown potential issues.

"I don't really buy the argument that disenfranchisement takes place because there are a large variety of IDs that can be accepted," he said.

Identifications that would be accepted include: driver's licenses, photo identification cards, concealed handgun carry licenses, passports, employee badges or identification documents, student identification cards issued by accredited Arkansas colleges and universities, United States military identification documents, public assistance identification cards and voter verification cards.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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