In 2014, Arkansas’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s voter ID law. The court found that the measure violated the state constitution because it added new qualifications for voters.
Now, ID supporters think they’ve found a clever way around that decision.
On Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed
a new photo ID measure. The new law requires each voter to “verify his or her registration” by showing a photo ID issued by the federal government or the state of Arkansas. Those who don’t can still vote by signing an affidavit, which will be checked against the signature on their voter registration card.
Verifying one’s voter registration isn’t how other states have typically couched their ID requirements. But framing it that way has allowed backers of the Arkansas law to claim they’re not adding a new voter qualification, and therefore that it doesn’t run afoul of the state constitution.
“This has been crafted very carefully to make sure that we are not adding a qualification to voting, that we are just clarifying the voter registration process,” state Rep. Mark Lowery, a Republican and the bill’s chief sponsor, told a legislative committee in January.
Of course, whether the courts will agree that requiring voters to present a form of government-issued photo ID counts as a simple clarification of the registration process remains to be seen. In challenging the earlier law, the ACLU of Arkansas estimated
, based on national rates, that around one in ten Arkansans lack the required ID.
Holly Dickson, a lawyer with the state ACLU chapter, told The Daily Democracy that her organization believes the new law adds a voter qualification, too, though she declined to confirm that they would challenge it in court.
“We will be analyzing this in further depth once the legislature has recessed,” Dickson said.
As we’ve reported
, Arkansas is just one of several states that’s been mulling new voting restrictions. Iowa looks set to pass
an ID bill of its own, which, by the way, also would eliminate straight-ticket voting—a form of voting that’s especially popular with minorities. New Hampshire and Georgia are considering new restrictions on voter registration.