UA Students Await Impact of Voting Law

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UA students anticipate how the new voting law requiring Arkansans to provide photo identification when voting will affect them after the law was put to the test in small state elections.

Act 633 requires the photo ID to include the voter’s name and photo and must be issued by the nation, state or an accredited postsecondary institution in Arkansas, according to the act.

Maumelle State Rep. Mark Lowery (R) was the lead sponsor of Act 633, which the 91st General Assembly passed into law March 24.

“I think we’ve done what we need to do to make sure this is constitutional,” Lowery said

If voters cannot supply a photo ID at the polls, they may sign a sworn statement that they are voting under their legal name. These people will then receive a provisional ballot, and the county board will later determine if the provisional ballot will count in the election, according to the act.

Voters who do not have their photo ID when voting, may also bring an approved photo ID to the board by noon of the following Monday, according to the act.

Because the law provides the option for voters to take a provisional ballot, Clay Smith, the chairperson of the College Republicans, said he approves Act 633.

“I’m really glad to see that this is passed,” Smith said.

Smith thinks it is important to eliminate voter fraud after the allegations that Russia interfered with President Donald Trump’s election, he said.

“I think it’s important to do everything to make sure that the system is trusted,” Smith said.

Skylar Caldwell, the president of the Young Democrats, said he thinks the, “new voter ID law is not worthy of our state's electorate,” and disapproves of Act 633.

“If Republican legislators want to continue to amend our constitution to prevent the myth that is widespread voter fraud - all while exposing the state budget to hidden fees and costly time-consuming lawsuits - then I think our only question should be, what is their ulterior motive?” Caldwell said.
Lowery has been interested in strengthening voter ID laws since he was first elected in 2013, he said. He was involved with the 2013 law that required Arkansans to show photo ID at voting stations.

The previous law was repealed after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional in  2014.

Act 633 expanded the different types of ID voters can use from the 2013 bill.

Holly Dickson, the legal director of the Arkansas branch of the ACLU, said she is concerned that this new law also infringes on voters’ rights, she said.

“We think that this new law has constitutional problems,” Dickson said.

The ACLU is monitoring Arkansas elections to see if the new law proves unconstitutional, Dickson said.

Lowery thinks Act 633 will increase voters’ confidence in the electoral system and increase voter turnout, he said.

“If you can do something to increase the number of people voting, that’s a positive outcome,” Lowery said.

An August 2016 Gallup Poll report showed that 80 percent of Americans support requiring voters to show photo ID when voting.

“I don’t think it’s an infringement that they are who they say they are,” Lowery said.

Dickson advises voters to hit the polls early in case they have problems voting because of Act 633.

“Students need to be aware of this and prepare before going to the polling place,” Dickson said.

She said she thinks Act 633 makes women vulnerable because they are more likely to have name changes than men and then will have difficulty replacing their IDs. But she said the law could affect every legal voter who could have lost their IDs, had their IDs stolen or experienced natural disasters and had their IDs damaged.

Dickson also suggested that people who use provisional ballots verify that their vote counted with their county board.

Voters who choose to vote with absentee ballots have to submit copies of their photo IDs. People in long-term care facilities or residential facilities and active-duty military members, merchant marines and their spouses who are serving out of the country do not have to show photo IDs when they are voting, according to the act.

“I think it’s a very small burden,” Lowery said.

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