LITTLE ROCK — Lawmakers on Monday sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk a bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, which House members previously approved in different form. The concurrence was the final hurdle the bill had to clear to go to the governor.
A spokesman for Hutchinson said Monday the governor generally supports a photo ID requirement for voters but would need to take a closer look at HB 1047 before deciding whether to sign it.
Under the bill, a voter who does not show photo ID at his or her polling place could cast a provisional ballot. The voter would be given the option of signing a sworn statement that the voter is who he or she claims to be, and the county clerk would 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 could 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 bill also would require that a copy of a voter’s photo ID be submitted with an absentee ballot. It would allow 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.
The bill originally did not provide the option to submit a sworn statement to prove one’s identity. Lowery said that provision was added in the Senate and “it has made the bill better.”
House members did not debate the bill Monday. In previous debate in both chambers, supporters argued that it would increase voter confidence in the integrity of elections, while opponents argued it would disenfranchise some eligible voters in the name of addressing a nonexistent problem.
The bill passed 74-21 in the House in January and passed 25-8 in the Senate earlier this month, with Republicans casting nearly all the votes in support.
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.
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 bill makes it clear that the measure addresses verifying one’s voter registration and not voter qualifications.