Arkansas House OKs bid to revive state's voter ID law
By ANDREW DeMILLO
Jan. 31, 2017
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House approved a plan Tuesday to reinstate a voter ID law that was struck down more than two years ago, with Republicans counting on a new state Supreme Court makeup to uphold the measure this time.
The proposal approved by a 74-21 vote is nearly identical to a law the Republican Legislature enacted in 2013 requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the measure in 2014, with the majority of the court ruling it unconstitutionally added a new qualification for voting.
The latest proposal is aimed at addressing a concern three of the court's seven justices raised that the prohibition didn't pass with enough votes in the Legislature when it was enacted in 2013. The proposal will need two-thirds support in both chambers, a threshold it easily cleared in the House. It now heads to the state Senate.
"We've got a new court and we have a new opportunity to establish what the law is on this," Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger told lawmakers before the vote.
Four of the justices who struck down the 2013 law are no longer on the court, and one of the new justices is a former Republican state legislator. The three justices who said the 2013 law didn't get the two-thirds vote needed remain on the court.
The justices no longer on the court weren't voted out of office because of the ruling. Three retired and the fourth was an interim justice appointed to the court whose term expired at the end of 2014.
The proposal is advancing as President Donald Trump is promoting unsubstantiated claims that millions of ballots were cast illegally in last year's election, Election officials across the country have dismissed Trump's voter fraud claims as baseless. It also comes months after Arkansas Republicans expanded their majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.
The measure was approved despite Democrats' objections that there wasn't an estimate on how much the requirement will cost the state. The legislation requires the state to provide photo IDs to voters who don't have another valid form of identification. The state still has equipment for providing the IDs that was purchased before the 2013 law was voided.
The lawmaker behind the latest effort has said the requirement would help instill confidence in the state's election system, but Democrats cited the more than 1,200 voters that opponents of the law said were disenfranchised before it was voided.
"If people who are lawfully registered to vote and meet all of the constitutional criteria to vote in the state of Arkansas are turned away from the ballot, that is not going to instill more confidence in the democratic process," Democratic Rep. Clarke Tucker said. "In fact, it would probably be the opposite."
Arkansas' 2013 voter ID law was enacted after Republicans overrode the veto of then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he generally supports voter ID, but has stopped short of saying whether he backs the latest effort to reinstate the law.
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