LITTLE ROCK — Lawmakers on Tuesday referred to the November 2018 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, passed in the Senate in a 24-8 vote. The House approved the measure last month in a 73-21 vote, so Senate approval was the final hurdle the resolution had to clear to make the ballot.
Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, was the only Democrat to join Republicans in voting for the measure. No Republican voted against it, although some did not vote.
If approved by voters next year, the measure would amend the Arkansas Constitution to include among the qualifications to vote a requirement that a person show photo ID before casing a ballot in person and include photo ID when mailing an absentee ballot.
A person who did not show photo ID when voting in person would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot would be counted if the voter “subsequently certifies the provisional ballot in a manner provided by law.”
The state would be required to make photo identification cards available to voters at no charge.
The Republican Legislature approved a voter ID law in 2013, overriding a veto by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. But the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the law in 2014, saying violated the state constitution by creating a qualification for voting not contained in the state constitution.
Speaking against HJR 1016 on Tuesday, Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said, “There’s nothing wrong with our voting process right now. There is nothing. This is not a problem, and the one thing we want to do, or should be doing, is making sure it’s easier and less onerous for your people to vote.”
Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, a co-sponsor of the proposal, told senators he believes voter fraud is a problem in Arkansas.
“I believe in the integrity of the right to vote and I also believe in preserving the integrity of the result,” he said.
The Senate approved HJR 1016 a day after a bill to create a photo ID requirement for voters through statute rather than a constitutional amendment failed in the Senate. House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, received 20 votes in support and eight against, falling short of the 24 votes needed for passage.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, a co-sponsor of Lowery’s bill, has said he plans to seek a second vote on it.
Lundstrum has said she supports Lowery’s bill and has urged lawmakers to approve both measures to increase the odds of a voter ID requirement surviving any court challenges.
The Legislature can refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot every two years. Earlier in the session, lawmakers referred to the ballot a proposal to cap damages and attorneys’ fees in civil lawsuits and give the Legislature authority to change, repeal or create court rules.