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Ark. Senate overrides voter ID veto; House to vote

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm •  Published: March 27, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

The Republican-led Senate voted 21-12, along party lines, to override the veto. There was no debate beforehand.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Bryan King, said he expects the GOP-controlled House to vote to override the veto on Thursday. Each chamber needs only a simple majority to override a veto in Arkansas.

Beebe vetoed the bill Monday, saying it amounts to "an expensive solution in search of a problem" and would unnecessarily infringe on voters' rights. Critics say in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and that voter ID laws, which Republicans have pushed for in many states, are really meant to disenfranchise groups that tend to favor Democrats.

King dismissed Beebe's concerns after Wednesday's vote.

"It's unfortunate that his attitude is just a continuation of the attitude by Democrats in Arkansas that voter fraud isn't happening and they won't do anything about it," King, R-Green Forest, told reporters.

The bill would require the state to provide free photo IDs to voters who don't have one at an estimated cost of $300,000. It wouldn't take effect until there is funding for the IDs or until January 2014, whichever occurs last.

Arkansas currently requires poll workers to ask for identification, but voters can still cast ballots if they don't have one. Among the forms of ID poll workers can ask for are non-photo options, including government checks and utility bills. If a voter doesn't show identification, poll workers indicate so on the precinct's voter registration list and the county election board can send the information to prosecutors after the election to investigate possible voter fraud.

Under the new legislation, voters unable to present a photo ID at polling stations would be allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voters would then have until noon on the following Monday to provide ID to county elections officials or sign an affidavit stating they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed. Otherwise, their provisional ballots wouldn't be counted.

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.

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