By Corinne Kwapis
The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Journal, the William H. Bowen School of Law, or UA Little Rock.
The state legislature should be calculated and precise in the laws it advances. These laws not only should refrain from suppressing citizens’ rights, but also should empower citizens to exercise their constitutional rights. Any law that attempts to disenfranchise and suppress citizens should be disavowed. Voter suppression as a result of photo voter ID requirements remains one of the most politically insidious attempts to disenfranchise the voting electorate. Photo voter ID requirements tend to disproportionately disenfranchise elderly, black and Latinx voters and may depress turnout generally. State legislatures across the country have engaged in voter suppression techniques in the name of election security and protecting democracy. Arkansas should not follow this trend towards voter suppression. When going to the polls on November 6, voters should vote “no” on Issue Two because current statutory requirements are sufficient and protecting Arkansans’ right to vote remains paramount.
Current Arkansas requirements for photo voter ID remain sufficient to confirm voter registration. Presently, Arkansas has a statutory photo voter ID law. Under this law, voters already have to prove their identity when registering to vote according to the Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 51, § 13(b)(1)(A). This amendment outlines documents that will be accepted as verification of voter registration including:
- A driver’s license;
- A photo identification card;
- A concealed handgun carry license;
- A United States passport;
- An employee badge or identification document issued by an accredited postsecondary education institution in the State of Arkansas;
- A United States military identification document;
- A public assistance identification card if the card shows a photograph of the person to whom the document or identification card was issued;
- A voter verification card as provided under Ark. Code § 7-5-324
Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment that voters will see on the November 6 ballot. On Election Day, voters will be charged to decide whether the Arkansas Constitution should be amended to require photo voter ID in order to cast a ballot. Arkansas already has a statutory photo voter ID law, which can be overturned by the courts; the constitutional amendment would be more fortified. If voters approve Issue 2, then this changes the Arkansas Constitution and makes any constitutional challenge to the photo voter ID law moot. Recent polling data shows that photo voter ID is favored by seven in ten Arkansas voters with overwhelming support to adopt the photo voter ID requirement as a constitutional amendment.
Passing this amendment is wrong because it disenfranchises voters, creates barriers in the constitutional right to vote, and causes the state to engage in bureaucratic processes now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention. No evidence exists to support that fraud as a result of voter impersonation exists in the absence of photo voter IDs. By implementing a photo voter ID constitutional amendment, the state is creating more bureaucracy by legislating a solution for a problem that does not exist. Lawmakers in support of photo voter IDs cite the integrity of democracy or security of elections as important reasons; however, statistics and research show that voter fraud as a result of the lack of IDs is not an actual threat. Therefore, voters should refrain from supporting this amendment that is rooted in partisan politics and creates more bureaucracy without a defendable objective. Vote No on Issue 2.