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Arkansans Weigh in on the Future of the State's Voter ID Law

Today, Arkansas voters who show up to the polls without a photo ID can sign a statement affirming they are who they say they are and cast a provisional vote, which, according to the law, will likely be counted. But the next time Arkansans head to the polls, things might be very different, thanks to an issue on today's ballot: Issue 2 would amend the Arkansas constitution to require a photo ID at the polls and disqualify provisional ballots that aren't certified with proper identification.

This is a big deal for a state that's weathered multiple challenges to its voter ID laws in the last few years. Back in 2013, the Republican legislature passed a voter ID law, but the state Supreme Court struck it down in 2014. The measure stayed dead until 2017, when a functionally identical law was passed—this time, with the provisional ballot loophole, which was included to make sure this statute didn't run afoul of the court like the 2013 law.

But that provision didn't get the law out of hot water. In May of 2018, a judge blocked it ahead of the primary election, but the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled it could stand while it considered the issue. In October, the court issued its final ruling: The current law could stand, and Arkansans needed to bring ID to vote.

So why is it still an issue? The legislature also voted to amend the state constitution—a solution that couldn't be overruled by the state courts. That triggered Arkansas' amendment procedure, and now it's up to voters to decide if the proposed language sticks. Issue 2 would require voters to provide valid ID in person or when mailing an absentee ballot, and provisional ballots would only be counted if they were certified "in a manner provided by law," which will then be up to the General Assembly to implement.

Other states with strict voter ID laws, like Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Virginia, require voters to certify their provisional ballots with proper ID within a few days of the election (or claim a valid exemption, in states where they're available).