LITTLE ROCK — A Northwest Arkansas lawmaker said Thursday he wants the Legislature to create a voter fraud investigative unit to go along with a constitutional amendment and state law he is proposing to require a new photo identification card to cast ballots in the state.
Rep. Bryan King, R-Berryville, who won a state Senate seat in the November general election, said he is working on a measure that would create an independent "voter integrity unit" to investigate reports of voter fraud across the state. While details are still being crafted, King said an independent unit is needed because the current state Board of Election Commissioners has not been aggressive enough in investigating voter fraud allegations.
He said the "voter integrity unit" would include independent prosecutors and judges.
"They’ll take the complaint seriously," King said. "The biggest problem is actually prosecuting the people involved … and being proactive, so when we actually have election irregularities happen, and we’ve had them for years, that you have somebody actually go out and investigate it and then have a process where if you do find something there it is addressed and prosecuted, if needed."
On Wednesday, King prefiled legislation for the upcoming regular legislative session that would create a constitutional requirement for Arkansans to show a voter ID complete with photo at the polls, as well as proposed enabling legislation for lawmakers to establish rules for the program.
If approved by the Legislature, Senate Joint Resolution 2 would allow voters to the decide the proposed constitutional amendment for voter ID in the 2014 general election.
Senate Bill 2 would require registered voters to show a voter ID, obtained at the county clerk’s office, when they go to a polling place to vote. Under the bill, all the equipment needed to make the photo IDs would have to be provided by the Arkansas Secretary of State.
King filed a similar measure in 2011 that passed the House but died in a Senate committee.
Republicans will control both chambers of the Legislature next year for the first time in nearly 140 years.
Fifteen states currently have voter ID laws, and legislatures in several other states are expected consider such measures next year.
Candice Martin, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said Thursday that voter ID cards are not necessary.
"In other states it’s been shown to be extremely costly, and there has been no form of voter fraud demonstrated in Arkansas which voter ID would be a solution to the problem," Martin said. "It further disenfranchises people and discourages them from having access to the basic right to vote."
Holly Dickson, attorney for the Arkansas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said a voter ID law "is a solution that lacks an actual problem."
"Voters already must show voter ID before they are allowed to vote in the state of Arkansas," Dickson said. "They must show their ID to prove their identity when they registered. If they have registered by mail, then they must show that identification when they go to vote at the polls the very first time."
Martin said the Democratic Party does support reforms in the absentee voting process to curb known problems with absentee balloting.
In September, Democrat Hudson Hallum resigned the state House seat he won in a 2011 special election after pleading guilty to a federal vote-buying charge in a scheme to rig absentee ballots.