Voter Suppression is Back: Arkansas’ GOP-Led Legislature Passes Voter ID Law

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  • LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas legislators passed a law Monday requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, overriding Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the bill, which he called an expensive solution to a non-existent problem.

    The Republican-led state House voted 52-45, largely along party lines, to complete an override that started in the GOP-controlled Senate on a 21-12 vote last week. Only a simple majority was needed in each chamber.

    “We are trying to protect the integrity of one of the most fundamental rights we have here in America,” said state Rep. Stephen Meeks, a Republican from Greenbrier and the bill’s House sponsor. House Speaker Davy Carter, a Cabot Republican who did not vote for the bill when it passed the House last month, supported the override.

    The governor, who last week called the bill “an expensive solution in search of a problem,” told reporters earlier Monday he had talked with some lawmakers to explain his veto, but had not urged them to vote against an override.

    “He made his case as to why he thought it wasn’t going to be good for Arkansas, but they have the final say and they’ve had that say,” Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said after the vote.

    Rep. John Walker, a Little Rock Democrat and noted civil rights lawyer, warned lawmakers to “not go back on history” by enacting the requirement. Critics of such voter ID laws say the type of in-person voter fraud they are meant to prevent is extremely rare, and that the laws are really designed to make it harder to vote for certain groups that tend to back Democrats, including minorities, students and the elderly. Black lawmakers in Arkansas have compared the new voter ID law to poll taxes used in the Jim Crow era.

    “I dare say you’ll find any of your colleagues in this body of my color who will support this. It doesn’t matter what their leanings are. What you’re doing in effect is saying we don’t care about what you think, we’re going to do this anyway,” said Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, who is black. “If you have the majority of course that’s what you can do, but do you really uniformly to a person by party disrespect us so much?”

    One Democrat, Rep. Fred Love of Little Rock, was listed as voting for the override, but he later indicated he would likely file a letter with the House clerk stating that he intended to vote the other way. Love chairs the legislative black caucus.

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