BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas citizens who go to the polls on May 20 to vote in the preferential primary elections must present a government-issued photo ID in order to get a ballot. People who vote early between now and election day will also have to show a photo ID.
The May 20 primary will be the first statewide election in Arkansas conducted under the provisions of Act 595 of 2013, which requires voters to present an identification card with a photograph.
Soon after the legislature approved the law in the 2013 regular session, it became entangled in litigation. In the past several weeks there have been court rulings in two separate cases, at the lower court and the Supreme Court level.
Although the final outcome of the photo ID law is still to be determined, the courts have made it clear that voters in the May 20 primaries must comply with the requirements of Act 595.
Acceptable forms of photo ID include a driver’s license, a passport, a student ID issued by an accredited college or university in Arkansas, a permit to carry a concealed handgun, a military identification document or a public assistance identification card.
Act 595 provides for free voter identification cards, issued through local county clerks’ offices. To get a free voter ID card from the county clerk, a person would have to swear under oath that he or she does not have any proof of identity.
Residents of residential care and long term care facilities do not have to show a photo ID, but they do have to show documentation from the facility administrator that they are residents.
There are two separate legal challenges to the act. Both were filed in a Pulaski Circuit Court, and in once case the state Supreme Court issued a partial stay of the lower court ruling. The result is that election officials will enforce the requirements of Act 595.
There may be developments between now and May 20 concerning how election officials are to handle absentee ballots. Act 595 requires voters to submit a copy of their photo ID when they vote absentee. Because of the legal challenges there is a lot of confusion and disagreement about procedures for handling absentee ballots that are submitted without a valid photo ID.
Act 595 was one of the more controversial bills of the 2013 legislative session. The governor vetoed it but the legislature overrode his veto.
For the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, state government’s net general revenue has been slightly above the same period of the previous year. It was 0.5 percent above last year and 1.9 percent above forecasts.
The fiscal year ends on June 30. The legislature budgets very conservatively and in the recent past has ended each fiscal year with a large surplus, which can be used for one-time projects and emergencies.
For example, during the special session last fall the legislature dedicated some of the surplus to the public school health insurance fund, in order to hold down sharp increases in premiums.
Increases in state revenue are reliable indicators of the health of the Arkansas economy because tax rates have not been increased. In fact, the legislature enacted $85 million a year in tax cuts that will take effect in the fiscal year that begins July 1.