Arkansans have until July 1 to off er feedback to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin on his proposed rules regarding the state’s new identifi cation cards for voters who have no other acceptable form of photo identifi cation.
Before Democrats or anyone else shoot off any messages to Martin
complaining about the
mere existence of such
cards, let’s be clear: That
decision is already made.
The Arkansas Senate
voted 23-12 in February to
create Act 595 of 2013. The
House passed it 51-44.
Gov. Mike Beebe,a Democrat, vetoed the legislation, saying it “unnecessarily restricts and impairs our citizens’ right to vote.” He referred to it as an “expensive solution in search of a problem.”
Backers, however, rallied to overcome Beebe’s veto, saying Arkansans need to be able to have confi dence in the county-based voting systems. They said the measure prevents election fraud; critics say it’s designed to discourage voting by certain populations.
Regardless of that debate, Martin now must establish the rules by which Arkansas’ 75 county clerks will carry out the photo identifi cation card program. After Jan. 1 anyone who cannot provide a photo identification will not have his vote counted.
That doesn’t mean all voters have to rush downthe county clerk’s oft ce.
Martin’s rules make other forms of photo ID acceptable, including a driver’s license, a concealed handgun carry license, a United States passport, an employee badge or identifi cation document; a United States military identifi cationdocument; a student identification card issued by an accredited post-secondary educational institution in the state of Arkansas; or a public assistance identifi cation card.
Certainly some Arkansans have none of those, and will need county clerks to issue special voter ID cards to meet the requirements of the law.
With that in mind, our advice to Martin is pretty simple: Make it extremely painless, convenient and easy for registered voters to get those photo identification cards. For voters, it should be almost eff ortless.
Martin’s rules envision his oft ce providing equipment, software and training to all county clerk oftces. We hope that means more than one photo identification station for each county, so there won’t be problems with broken-down equipment. It would also make sense for county clerks to have mobile versions of the equipment, so they can develop programs to promote voter ID cards at varied locations. Getting to the county courthouse is not so easy in parts of many counties.
Two key provisions we like: Residents of state licensed long-term or residential care facilities, many of whom have limited mobility, would not be required to obtain photo identification cards to vote. They could simply have the facility’s administrator issue a letter attesting to their residency.
Secondly, any other valid form of photo identification will be acceptable for up to four years after it expires. That will give significant leeway to older Arkansans who give up driving.
The key to avoiding barriers to voters is to implement a photo identification system that’s easy. Anything short of that will be an unwelcome complication for Arkansas voters.