House member plans new challenge to voter ID bill


LITTLE ROCK — A Senate bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls appears to be headed for a second procedural challenge.

Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, said Monday he planned to challenge Senate Bill 2 on the House floor Tuesday on the grounds that it needs a two-thirds majority to pass and that it did not meet that threshold in the Senate.

Previously, Nickels temporarily held up the bill in the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs by requesting a statement of its projected fiscal impact. Nickels opposes the bill.

He said Monday that Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution establishes the requirements that can be imposed on voter registration and that adding new requirements not included in the amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote. The bill passed 23-12 in the 35-member Senate, or one vote short of a two-thirds majority, so it should be sent back to the Senate, Nickels said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, does not mention voter registration, but Nickels said that requiring voters to show photo ID is “a de facto registration requirement.”

“If it’s something that if you don’t have, you cannot vote, then that goes to your qualifications to vote, which is covered in 51,” he said.

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said Monday that if Nickels raises his objection on the House floor, he will ask the House Rules Committee to meet later in the week and decide what is appropriate.

The members of the House Rules Committee are chosen by the speaker. Carter has expressed support for the bill, but he would not say Monday whether he agreed with Nickels’ argument.

“I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to the question,” he said.

King said Monday that he was aware of the questions raised by some House members and that the attorney for the state Senate met with the House parliamentarian and members of the Bureau of Legislative Research and they concluded that the bill needed just a simple majority.

“I think you have some House members who think it’s a two-thirds vote bill and I don’t see that,” King said. “Based on the legal staff opinion that I’ve got on this, we’ve still stayed on the simple majority path.”