When manning the polls in Arkansas during an election, a poll worker is required to ask a voter for his or her identification. Legally, the voter is not required to present such documentation to the worker, but a bill sitting on the governor’s desk could change that.
Senate Bill 2 — also known as the Voter ID Bill — has gone through the Arkansas Legislature and is awaiting action by the governor. If made into law, the bill would require voters "to provide proof of identity when voting and to provide for the issuance of a voter identification card."
Gov. Mike Beebe is likely to take action on the bill Monday, according to a staff member in the governor’s communication office.
Local state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, supported the bill, saying he thinks "the integrity of the election process should be insured."
Rapert said it did not seem unreasonable to ask to have voters prove who they were in order to combat possible voter fraud.
"In this day in time it is not too much to ask for someone to present an ID," he said. "I actually question the motivation of any political party or individual who would create a situation where you could not prove the identity of the person voting."
Former Faulkner County Election Commission Chairman Frank Shaw said there are many problems with the voter process in Arkansas, but he does not believe the bill would solve those problems.
"We have never - that I know of - had someone alleging to be ‘A’ when he was actually ‘B,’" Shaw said.
As chairman of the election commission, Shaw said he made it a priority to open the voting process to as many people as possible. He said he thinks this bill would have the opposite effect.
"They want to make it harder for some people to vote," he said, "I don’t care which party you’re in. This is the opposite reaction by the party in control and they want to repress the vote by voter ID."
Shaw said there are other things the legislature could do to help the election process, such as clarifying and streamlining the 500-plus page election law handbook.
"If the legislature would sit down, have some staff rewrite this in a more uniform manner that would be easier to read, we could have better elections," he said.
Rapert said he has had conversations with Shaw and agrees that more can be done to streamline the process.
"I’m sure there needs to be some updates," he said.
While voter fraud may be a problem elsewhere in the county, both Shaw and County Clerk Melinda Reynolds said Faulkner County has not had any such problems.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)