Voter ID Still Law In Arkansas

The fight over Arkansas' requirement that voters provide some modicum of evidence of who they are before casting a ballot is headed for the Supreme Court as the dueling forces of American politics -- largely Democrats and Republicans -- vie to grab the most electoral benefit.

Act 593 requires Arkansas voters to present photo identification at the polls, but that ID is to be used only to verify name, likeness to the photo and the ID's expiration date.

What’s The Point?

Poll workers have adjusted their approaches to implementing Arkansas voter ID law even as the courts may ultimately strike it down.

Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox has given critics of the state's voter identification law a great deal of hope. He ruled the measure is illegal because state legislators did not go through the proper process to approve it. Rather than simply passing a state law, representatives must actually amend the Arkansas Constitution, Fox ruled. That would require more votes than the legislation creating a voter ID requirement has ever received.

His finding was suspended until the Arkansas Supreme Court has a chance to chime in.

Voters in the May 20 primary were the first since the law went into effect to be asked for some form of photo identification when they entered polling places. That process will again take place today as the state's voters cast ballots in any runoff elections from the earlier primary, most notably the statewide race to pick the GOP nominee for Arkansas' attorney general.

So, election commissions in Washington, Benton and other Arkansas counties must continue to have their poll workers attempt to protect the electoral processes by a means that very well may be illegal.

Apparently, in deciding not to issue a stay that would have prevented implementation of the law, the judge recognized that nobody's rights were likely to be infringed upon in such an egregious manner that it merited extraordinary protection. The ruling fell short of declaring the act of requiring an ID unconstitutional, but said lawmakers erred in how they created the requirement. Still, local poll workers will attempt to carry out the law.

In that May 20 primary, poll workers carried out the requirements of the law without significant numbers of problems. Most related to concerns about procedure. In Pulaski County, poll workers had been trained to ask voters for their registration information first, check it against their registration records, then obtain the ID card to comply with Act. 593. Some did it in that order. Others didn't.

In Washington County, poll workers asked for IDs first because the county's technology scans driver's licenses, then uses that data to access the registration information. The process adds convenience by eliminating the old polling place lines divided into groups of letters starting voters' last names. With the new technology, voters can walk up to any available poll worker to begin the process. Some voters, however, reported being uncomfortable when poll workers kept the IDs while quizzing them about their registration information. Election workers today should, according to the election coordinator, hand back the voter ID before asking further questions designed to confirm the voter's registration information.

As with any new procedure, it takes some effort to work out the kinks, which have thankfully been rather small. With the same smidgen of attention one pays to filing insurance claims or obtaining a license plate for a car or setting up a utility account, voters can continue to exercise their right to vote. It's not the insurmountable task critics suggest, even though in time and for other reasons, the courts may reject the Arkansas law requiring voter ID.

Commentary on 06/10/2014