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Arkansas senate approves voter ID bill

The Arkansas Senate [official website] on Tuesday voted 22-12 to approve [roll call] a bill [SB2, PDF] that would require voters to show photo identification prior to casting ballots. The bill had previously passed [bill history] the Arkansas House [official website]. Supporters state that the bill will eliminate possible voter fraud [Reuters report], while opponents voice concern over the risk of disenfranchising legitimate voters. The Arkansas Attorney General's Office [official website] is considering a request for an opinion on whether the bill violates the Arkansas constitution. Under current state law, although poll workers may request ID, voters are not required to present it. The proposed law would allow registered voters to obtain photo ID cards at no cost if the voters lack other acceptable forms of ID. Voters without ID could cast provisional ballots, but such ballots would only be counted if the voter returned with ID. The bill now goes to Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe [official website] for approval.

Voter ID laws have become increasingly controversial across the US. Last month the Virginia Senate [official website] approved two bills [JURIST report] restricting the acceptable forms of ID that voters can present at the polls. That same day, Lawyers for Pennsylvania and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) [advocacy website] reached an accord extending the temporary enjoinment [JURIST report] of the Pennsylvania voter ID laws, and allowing state residents to vote in upcoming primary and special elections without submitting ID. There are now more than 30 US States [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states that have passed laws requiring photo ID. The issue remains legally controversial, especially in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota [JURIST reports].

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