UPDATE Voter ID bill passes Senate


LITTLE ROCK — Legislation to require Arkansans to show photo identification when they go the polls cleared the Senate on Wednesday.

As a winter storm moved into the state, the House and Senate approved matching resolutions allowing them to recess until Monday, although only the Senate planned to exercise the option. The House planned to work through the week if travel conditions permit.

Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, passed the Senate by a 23-12 vote.

Under the bill, a voter would only be allowed to cast a ballot if he or she showed official identification bearing a photograph — a driver’s license, state identification card, concealed-carry handgun license, military ID, a U.S. passport, employee badge or identification document, public assistance identification card or college student identification card.

Poll workers are currently required to ask for identification, but voters don’t have to show it in order to cast a ballot.

People without such forms of ID would be able to get a photo ID card for free at their county clerk’s office. King has estimated it would cost about $300,000 to purchase the necessary photo machines and provide them to all the county clerk’s offices in the state.

“This bill will help improve voter integrity of elections,” King told the Senate, adding that in other states where similar legislation has been approved voter participation has risen.

King said the new requirement would not take effect until there is funding available to purchase equipment to make the voter ID cards. Funding is not included in the secretary of state’s current proposed budget for fiscal 2013-2014.

Opponents maintained the bill would suppress voting in the state.

“I think we’re way off base,” said Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, arguing that there is no evidence in Arkansas of the kind of voter fraud the bill targets. “It’s vile to our American democracy.”

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said voting is a constitutional right and requiring identification could disenfranchise some voters.

King and others who spoke for the bill referred to the case of former state Rep. Hudson Hallum as an example of voter fraud in the state.

Hallum, a Democrat from Marion, resigned his House seat last year after pleading guilty to a federal vote fraud charge stemming from a 2011 special election which Hallum won. The charge related to absentee balloting, which King’s bill does not address.

“There is not one person who has debated this bill who can give us a specific example other than Rep. Hallum, and his (case) had nothing to do with voter identification,” Chesterfield argued.

The bill goes to the House.

Lobbying ban

The Senate also passed, 35-0 SB 331, by Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, which would require constitutional officers, judges and employees in their offices to wait one year after they leave their state job before they can register as a lobbyist in Arkansas.

Two years ago, the Legislature approved a one-year lobbying ban on ex-legislators and members of the state Public Service Commission.

Under SB 331, all of the state’s constitutional officers, Supreme Court justices, state Court of Appeals judges, and circuit and district court judges would be required to wait a year before registering as lobbyists. Employees in those offices also would fall under the one-year prohibition.

Salary suspension

In the House, members voted 95-0 to approve SB 217 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, which would allow a city to stop paying an elected city official’s salary if the official’s required professional license, such as a city attorney’s law license, is suspended. The bill goes to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment.

McElroy returns

Rep. Mark McElroy, D-Tillar, was present in the House chamber Wednesday for the first time since Friday, when he was escorted out of the chamber after giving a rambling, incoherent speech. McElroy has said he was treated over the weekend for a health condition.

Guns on college campuses

Elsewhere Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1243 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, which would allow faculty and staff at public colleges colleges and universities who have have concealed-carry permits to carry concealed weapons on campus. An institution could opt out of the law by an annual vote of the board of trustees.

The panel rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, which would allow the governing body of a college or university to decide whether to allow guns on campus without the need for an annual vote. Ingram said the language he proposed would mirror language in legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe that allows a church to decide whether to let people with concealed-carry permits carry guns into the building.

The bill, which passed 70-11 in the House last week, goes to the Senate.