Filed Jan. 14, SB2, titled "An act to provide that a voter provide proof of identity when voting and to provide for the issuance of a voter identification card," the bill was passed by the Senate on Feb. 20 and by the House on March 13 and delivered to the governor on Tuesday for his approval.
The bill provides that voters must use an acceptable form form of photo identification when going to the polls. They can use a voter identification card or some other document that includes a name and photo and is issued by the U.S., the state or an accredited college or university and is not expired more than four years before the current election. Examples would be a driver's license, a photo ID card, a concealed handgun carry license, a U.S. passport, an employee badge or ID document, a U.S. military ID, a college student ID, a public assistance card or a voter ID card.
Those who vote by absentee ballot have to include a copy of the ID returned with the ballot or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing the name.
The bill exempts people in long-term residential care from having an ID, but they must have documentation from the facility proving they are a resident.
King said in a recent column in "Talk Business Arkansas" that the bill is designed to prevent voter fraud, which is "difficult to catch and prosecute."
He said detection of fraud is "rare" and cited a Supreme Court decision that voter identification is constitutional.
He said many people don't believe fraud exists, and that's because it is so difficult to prove.
"Those of us who do care about the integrity of the ballot need to do more than express regret about vote fraud," he said. He said election fraud "has a long history in Arkansas, some of it engineered by government officials."
The bill has been controversial. Opponents say it will disenfranchise voters. They American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas states that research shows that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo IDs.
"As many as 25 percent of African Americans of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8 percent of their white counterparts," the ACLU said on its website.
To that, King said the bill provides for funds to pay for voter IDs for those who cannot afford them.
But the documents needed to obtain the voter ID in the first place cost money, said the ACLU, "and many eligible voters simply cannot afford to pay for them. Without full and ongoing funding, the requirements for a photo ID would become an unconstitutional poll tax."
Elderly voters who never had a state-issued birth certificate and are not in a long-term care facility are out of luck, as well as people with disabilities who don't have drivers' licenses or the means to get them or some other form of ID. Veterans' ID cards don't have an expiration date.
"This bill in ineffective at stopping fraud," the ACLU wrote. "The sponsors of the bill complain of fraud with absentee ballots yet this bill puts a higher burden on the voter in person than the absentee voter and does nothing to address absentee ballots. This bill only makes it hard for people in person to vote."
King said that voter identification requirements have made voter turnout increase in states that have instituted it.
"I suspect this had something to do with increased confidence in the election process," he wrote.