Arkansas voters would be required to show photo identification before casting a ballot under legislation advanced by a Senate panel Thursday, but Democrats question the cost of the requirement and whether it’s aimed at suppressing votes. The chamber’s State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed the voter ID bill on a voice vote, with the three Democrats on the Republican-controlled panel objecting. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. Arkansas poll workers already are required to ask voters for identification, but voters can still cast a ballot if they don’t show one. Past efforts to require photo ID have failed in the Arkansas Legislature, but Republicans believe they have votes for it now that they control the House and Senate.
Republicans around the country have been pushing for similar laws in other states, though the measures have faced court challenges. Voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have been blocked.
Sen. Bryan King, the bill’s sponsor, told lawmakers that requiring ID would guarantee the integrity of the state’s voting system.
“We know that providing photo identification is part of everyday life,” said King, R-Green Forest. King has also proposed referring to voters next year a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voter ID.
Opponents of the measure say it would violate the Arkansas and U.S. constitutions.
“This just adds an additional layer that is certain to take away people’s right to vote,” Holly Dickson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, told the committee.