State Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle has filed a bill
constitutional amendment to require a photo ID to vote in Arkansas.
It is in keeping with national Republican strategy to erect barriers to voting, barriers that tend to disproportionately impact voter groups — poor and minority, particularly — that lean Democratic.
There is no evidence of voter identification fraud in Arkansas or elsewhere that necessitates this. The legislature passed an earlier voter ID law that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in an opinion written by the late Donald Corbin. High irony that Lowery would be back with vote suppression the day after Corbin’s death. The law now allows election officials to request a photo ID — and voters must give a valid address and signature to vote — but they may not be denied a vote or given only a provisional ballot simply for refusal to produce an ID. Famously, Corbin refused to produce an ID when requested in 2014. “I wrote the opinion,” he said.
We need more Donnie Corbins and fewer Mark Lowerys.
Vote suppression was successful in Republican-controlled states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio, places where swings for Trump were crucial in the presidential election. (For illustration, see this.) Trump needed no help in Arkansas, but I guess in Lowery’s world, you can’t be too careful.
For people who don’t have IDs, the ability to prove up a challenged ballot — a trip to the county clerk by the Monday following an election — is all but worthless.
I wrote erroneously originally that this was a constitutional amendment. Sen. Bryan King has talked about trying that again, too.
Why would this law pass muster and the earlier law did not? Well, the not-so-estimable Rep. Bob Ballenger thinks there’s importance that three of seven justices said the last law could be struck down simply because it didn’t have the required two-thirds vote for changes in constitutional rules on voter registration. That shouldn’t be a problem with the overwhelming Republican majority now. But that ignores that four members of the court held that the law was unconstitutional on its face under Article 3 of the Constitution. The same judges would undoubtedly say the same on this law, because it creates new requirements for voting, prohibited by the Constitution. But NONE, that’s right NONE, of the four will be on the court next year. The three who found another reason to strike down the earlier law — Justices Karen Baker, Jo Hart and Courtney Goodson — will be there. They have proven solicitous of the feelings of the legislature in the past. And they seemed to perhaps be willing to override Article 3 by using voter-approved Amendment 51 that gives legislature leeway over voter registration procedures. The majority rejected that view. Even the threem, however, held open the question of whether the voter ID law violated the bedrock protection of Article 3, regardless of what room the legislature has to make changes in registration procedures under Amendment 51.
Will the court overturn the firm precedent of the earlier ruling just because the legislature wants it too? I fear the answer. But count on the ACLU and others to give them a fight first.
The last bill was passed over Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto. He said it was an expensive solution in search of a problem. Those were the days.