Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law Friday aimed at resurrecting many of the requirements of a voter-identification law that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014. House Bill 1047, by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, will require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots. It also will require the secretary of state’s office to issue free photo identification cards to those who lack other acceptable identification. A new provision — not included in the old law — allows people without photo identification to sign a sworn statement saying they are registered in Arkansas. By signing that statement, they will be allowed to cast provisional ballots to be verified later. “I’ve always supported reasonable requirements for verification of voter registration,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “This law is different — in a number of ways — than the previous law, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. It should hold up under any court review. For those reasons, I signed the bill into law.”
Proponents of voter-identification laws see the increased requirements as a way to prevent voter impersonation and fraud. Opponents say there is little fraud and that such laws unduly restrict the right to vote and also impose unnecessary burdens on election administrators.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed suit over the 2013 law and has raised concerns about the new law.
“I hear a lot of discussion about how this could lead to lawsuits or this could lead to litigation, but the most important thing about litigation is someone’s rights are in jeopardy or they’re about to be taken away,” said Holly Dickson, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas.