A bill to eliminate the Monday before the election as a day when early voting is available passed in the Arkansas Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill 485 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, was sent to the House on a 19-13 vote.
Proponents of the bill said it's a measure to give election workers time to process votes and a buffer before the election on Tuesday, while lawmakers from both parties and voting-rights groups have said it takes away the day with the highest early voter turnout.
"Voting is a right. That is established. But early voting is a privilege," Hammer told senators.
[RELATED: See complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature at arkansasonline.com/legislature]
Hammer cited a previous effort to remove the final Monday from the available early voting days led by a Democratic lawmaker more than a decade ago.
Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, said last-Monday early voting is used steadily by voters of all political ideologies. She added that children's activities or sports tournaments can make it difficult for parents to vote on Saturdays, and noted that the bill previously failed in committee three times before it was signed out.
Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, spoke in support of the bill and urged senators to think about smaller voting sites and older election workers.
Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said lawmakers should be making it easier for people to vote, not taking time away.
"The bottom line is, the more people in Arkansas vote, that's going to be more Republican votes," Tucker said.
Hammer said if people can pay their bills and attend kids' ballgames on time, they should prioritize voting on time.
Voting against the bill along with Davis and Tucker were Sens. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock; Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy; Lance Eads, R-Springdale; Jim Hendren, I-Sulphur Springs; Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs; Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis; Blake Johnson, R-Corning; Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville; Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs; and Larry Teague, D-Nashville.
Sen. James Sturch, R-Batesville, did not vote, and Sens. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, were excused.