The Arkansas Senate voted Wednesday to require voters to show photo identification before they can cast a ballot, a requirement that one Democratic lawmaker compared to poll taxes and other past efforts to disenfranchise voters. The Republican-led Senate approved the requirement on a mostly partly-line 23-12 vote, with two Democrats joining the chamber’s 21 Republicans. Past efforts at voter ID legislation have failed in the Legislature under Democratic control, but the idea is expected to have an easier path to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s desk now that Republicans control both chambers. Beebe has questioned the need for such a requirement, but has not said whether he opposes the bill. Arkansas law currently requires poll workers to ask for identification, but voters are not required to show it.
Sen. Bryan King, the bill’s sponsor, called showing ID an “everyday part of life” and said the requirement would ensure the integrity of the state’s elections.
“If we can’t have faith in our voting system, we can’t have faith in the people we send down here,” King, R-Green Forest, told lawmakers.
But opponents of the measure noted that similar restrictions have faced court challenges, and they have pointed out that supporters lack any real examples of voter impersonation at the polls beyond anecdotal cases.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, compared the voter ID bill to requirements such as literacy tests and poll taxes that were used to disenfranchise voters, primarily African-Americans, during the Jim Crow era.
“I suggest to you today that this is a backdoor poll tax,” Chesterfield said.
Full Article: Arkansas Senate approves voter ID legislation – SFGate.