LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, sending the Republican-backed measure to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's desk.
After rejecting a committee recommendation that the measure needed a two-thirds majority, 24 votes, the Senate voted 22-12 to approve the bill. The Republican-led chamber had approved an earlier version of the bill, but had to sign off an amendment attached by GOP-controlled House to exempt active duty military personnel who file absentee ballots.
Beebe has questioned the need for such a law since poll workers are already required to ask for ID, but stopped short of saying whether he'll veto the bill.
Earlier Tuesday, the Senate's Rules, Resolutions and Memorials Committee voted 8-6 to recommend that the voter ID bill require a two-thirds majority to pass the Senate. The panel made the recommendation based on arguments that the legislation amends constitutional requirements on voter registration.
The committee's recommendation was nonbinding, and the Senate voted to not accept it before passing the voter ID bill on a simple majority.
While Arkansas poll workers must ask for identification under current law, voters don't have to show it to cast a ballot. If a voter refuses, a provisional ballot is cast that must be verified by election workers. The bill would require Arkansas to provide free photo IDs to voters who don't have one, costing the state an estimated $300,000.
Republicans around the country have been pushing for similar laws in other states, though the measures have faced court challenges. Voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have been blocked.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has vowed to sue the state, saying it believes the measure is unconstitutional. Opponents of the measure say it would disenfranchise senior citizens, minorities and the poor.
The bill also exempts voters who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Other voters who don't show photo identification would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. That ballot would be counted only if they provide ID to county election officials or sign an affidavit stating they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed by noon Monday following the election.
Beebe told reporters he was waiting on an opinion from the attorney general's office on whether the measure would violate the state constitution before saying what he'll do with the bill.
"Substantively, I'm not sure how much of a huge change it is one way or the other. It's a little change," Beebe told reporters Monday. "The real question for me is does it change qualification for voting pursuant to the constitution? That's what we've got to get an answer to."
If Beebe vetoes the voter ID bill, lawmakers can override him with a simple majority in the House and Senate. The Republican-led Legislature has already overridden Beebe's vetoes of two abortion restrictions, including one that would ban the procedure 12 weeks into a pregnancy.