Arkansas Lawmakers Pass Strict Voter ID Law, Overriding Governor’s Veto

Last week, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) vetoed a bill to require all Arkansans to show photo ID before voting, calling it an “unnecessary measure that would negatively impact one of our most precious rights as citizens.” Nevertheless, the newly Republican-dominated House completed an override of Beebe’s veto on Monday, finally passing their coveted strict voter ID law after years of being stymied by Democratic majorities.

The law also requires the state to provide free photo ID to voters who don’t have one, to the tune of $300,000 in taxpayer money. Beebe blasted the bill as “an expensive solution in search of a problem.” He’s right: voter ID laws’ stated purpose is to combat in-person voter fraud, an exceedingly rare phenomenon. An individual is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit in-person voter fraud, and one Wisconsin study found an overall fraud rate of .00023 percent.

Meanwhile, these laws disenfranchise between 2 and 9 percent of voters, hitting minorities, seniors, and young people who do not or cannot get the required ID especially hard. A recent study found that young minorities were the most severely impacted by these laws; huge majorities of black and Latino youths reported being asked to show ID at the polls — even in states without voter ID laws.

In the past few years, voter ID laws have surged in popularity among Republican-dominated state legislatures. Though many were struck down in court before the 2012 election, five states — Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee — will have strict voter ID requirements in effect for the 2014 midterm elections. Nor does the fad seem to be dying down; a new report from ProjectVote finds that 30 states have introduced vote-suppressing laws in 2013. Of these, 20 introduced voter ID bills.

Voter ID is just one element in a phalanx of vote-suppressing laws that includes voter registration restrictions, voter purges, and limits on early voting. The model state for such efforts in the last election, Florida, experienced marathon lines and chaos at the polls. Shortly after, prominent state Republicans admitted they had pursued these measures to keep Democratic voters from casting their ballots.