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

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Sen. Bryan King, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said after Monday’s vote that he was relieved by the results.

“This bill has had the most debate about it, it’s had the most scrutiny of any bill this session,” the Republican from Green Forest said. “It’s going to become the law of the land here in Arkansas, and that’s a great thing. An overwhelming majority of Arkansans support it.”

The new law will require Arkansas to provide a free photo ID to voters who don’t have one and will cost the state an estimated $300,000. The requirement won’t take effect until there is funding for the IDs or until January, whichever occurs last.

While Arkansas poll workers must ask for identification under current law, voters don’t have to show it to cast a ballot. Under the new law, voters who don’t show photo identification can cast provisional ballots. Those ballots would be counted only if voters provide ID to county election officials or, before noon on the Monday following an election, sign an affidavit stating they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed.

Arkansas is among 19 states where proposals to enact voter ID laws or strengthen existing requirements have been introduced this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republicans have been pushing for similar laws in other states, although the measures have faced court challenges. Voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have been blocked. Similar restrictions by Texas and South Carolina have been rejected by the federal government under the Voting Rights Act, and Mississippi is waiting for federal approval of its photo ID law.

Four states — Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee — have similarly strict photo ID requirement laws in effect. Virginia will also have a strict photo ID requirement for voters in effect July 2014 under a measure signed into law last week by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Arkansas Republicans had pushed for voter ID requirements for years, but the measure failed to reach the governor’s desk under Democratic majorities. Republicans last November won control of the Legislature for the first time in 138 years and have enjoyed a number of successes, including the passage of stricter anti-abortion laws and broader gun rights.

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