UPDATE Call for cost statement stalls voter ID bill


LITTLE ROCK — A member’s request for a fiscal impact statement held up a bill to require voters to show photo ID at the polls in a House committee Wednesday.

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, but did not vote on it because Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, requested a statement of the bill’s potential cost to the state.

Rep. Andrea Lea, R-Russellville, the committee’s chairman, said the panel would not vote on the bill until after a statement is prepared.

The bill would require the secretary of state’s office to supply court clerks with the equipment needed to issue photo ID cards. King told reporters he believed the bill’s fiscal impact would be $300,000 or less in the first year and minimal in subsequent years. The photo ID requirement would not be implemented until money is available to pay for the equipment under the bill.

King also said he believed the request was not motivated by concerns about cost.

“This issue is, they’re opposed to this bill,” he said.

Much of the discussion and testimony in the committee revolved around whether the bill would address a real problem. Martha Adcock, general counsel for the secretary of state’s office, said while testifying for the bill that voter fraud was alleged in the case of former state Rep. Hudson Hallum, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit election fraud in a 2011 special election.

Rep. Butch Wilkins, D-Bono, the committee’s vice chairman, said Hallum’s case involved fraud committed with absentee ballots, which King’s bill would not address.

“That’s what he was convicted for,” said Adcock, who was about speak of other allegations against the former Democratic lawmaker when Wilkins cut her off.

“We’re concerned with what he was convicted for,” he said. “I could accuse you of doing anything. If you’re not convicted in court it really doesn’t matter.”

Dan Greenberg, a Little Rock lawyer testifying in support of the bill, told the panel, “We’re making a mistake if we’re going to say, ‘Look, unless there was a conviction we should sort of assume it didn’t happen.’”

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, testifying against the bill, said it would disenfranchise some voters and would be sure to be challenged in court.

“It would be a shame for the state of Arkansas to have to defend a law that was not necessary because of a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

The bill passed in the Senate last week on a 23-12 vote.