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Arkansas Senate rejects photo-ID voter bill

Sponsor set to try again for 24 yea’s by Michael R. Wickline | March 7, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to cast ballots failed to clear the Arkansas Senate on Monday.

The Senate's 20-8 vote on House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, fell four votes short of the 24 votes required for approval in the 35-member Senate. Six senators didn't vote on the measure.

The bill requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate because Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution authorizes lawmakers to amend voter-registration measures if at least two-thirds of both houses of the General Assembly approve the changes. The 100-member House earlier voted to approve the bill 74-21.

Afterward, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, said he would ask the Senate to approve the bill "once they get the votes in here. The support is there." He said some members were out in meetings.

Proponents of the legislation contend that it will increase voter confidence and guard against voter fraud. Opponents counter there is little fraud of this kind, and the identification burden on voters would unduly restrict the right to vote.

The bill was amended in the Senate to clarify that a provisional ballot cast by a voter may be counted rather than require the ballot to be counted. The bill would allow a voter, if he doesn't present photo identification, to sign a sworn statement attesting to his identity under the penalty of perjury. A provisional ballot would be counted after the voter's signature is verified on his voter registration card.

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Under the bill, a voter casting a provisional ballot also may return to the county board of election commissioners or the county clerk by noon on the Monday after the election and present a document or identification card that complies with the legislation for his ballot to be counted.

Under HB1047, identification that would be accepted includes: driver's licenses, photo identification cards, concealed-handgun carry licenses, U.S. passports, employee badges or identification documents, student identification cards issued by accredited Arkansas colleges and universities, U.S. military identification documents, public-assistance identification cards and free voter-verification cards. The secretary of state's office purchased equipment for each county to provide the free cards after a 2013 voter identification bill became law.

In 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the 2013 voter ID law. Four justices said the law added a qualification to the voter qualifications in the state's constitution.

Lowery has said his legislation is aimed at surviving a legal challenge. Amendment 51 of the Arkansas Constitution sets up the voter registration process "and all you are doing is verifying voter registration through the use of photo ID," he told the Senate committee last month.

A Section on 03/07/2017

Print Headline: Senate rejects photo-ID voter bill

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