LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law a bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
The governor signed House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, one of two measures aimed at reinstating a voter ID law that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Under the new law, a voter who does not show photo ID at his or her polling place may cast a provisional ballot. The voter will be given the option of signing a sworn statement that the voter is who he or she claims to be, and if that option is chosen the county clerk will compare the signature to the signature on the voter registration card issued to that person to see if they match and the ballot should be counted.
Alternatively, a voter casting a provisional ballot may choose to show photo ID to the county clerk or county election board before noon on the Monday after the election to have the ballot counted.
The law also requires that a copy of a voter’s photo ID be submitted with an absentee ballot. It allows an absentee voter to sign a statement that could be used to verify the person’s identity if no photo ID is submitted.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office would be required to provide for the issuance of voter identification cards with photos to registered voters who request them from their county clerk. The cards would be issued free of charge.
Earlier in the session, legislators referred to the November 2018 ballot House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo ID.
Supporters say a voter ID requirement will increase voter confidence in the integrity of elections, while opponents say it will disenfranchise some eligible voters in the name of addressing a nonexistent problem.
Both measures seek to reinstate a voter ID requirement that the Republican-controlled Legislature approved in 2013, overriding a veto by then Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.
The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that the 2013 law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding qualifications for voting that went beyond those established in the constitution.
Lowery has said the wording in his measure makes it clear that the measure addresses verifying one’s voter registration and not voter qualifications.
He also has pointed out that some of the justices who struck down the 2013 law said they were doing so because it did not receive a two-thirds vote in each chamber and therefore could not amend the section of the constitution governing voter registration.
Lowery’s bill did receive a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said the bill is unconstitutional regardless of the vote margin because, like the 2013 law, it would add new voter qualifications.