Arkansas’ top elections panel on Wednesday approved guidelines for how poll workers should enforce the state’s new voter ID law when it takes effect next year, after it removed a proposal that one member warned could lead to political favoritism. The state Board of Election Commissioners unanimously approved the rules, which closely mirror those outlined in the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in April despite Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto. Before approving the new guidelines, the panel voted to remove a provision that would have allowed poll supervisors to settle disputes when voters don’t resemble their ID photos. Board member Stu Soffer, who called for the provision’s removal, said the voter ID law didn’t give them the authority to include that step in the rules. He said the voter could cast a provisional ballot even if their identity is challenged, and the final decision could be made by the county election commission.
“My concern is it’s an opportunity for partisan politics,” Soffer, a Republican, said. “It’s an opportunity for those of the same political party to make exceptions, ‘oh yeah, that’s Joe.’ I would rather we follow what’s in the law. If there’s a dispute, let’s get the light of day on it.”
Tim Humphries, the board’s legal counsel, said leaving the decision up to poll supervisors was proposed because they may know a voter better because they live near them.
“Another poll worker there is that person’s neighbor, mother, best friend, and knows that is indeed that person,” Humphries said. “That is the situation we’re trying to address and we wanted to make sure it got addressed the same way in Jefferson County as it did in Clark County.”