A draft of new Voter ID rules passed another step in the process leading toward implementation. The Board of Election Commissioner’s approval opens up a period for public comment ending August 21.
The new rules outline nine acceptable forms of photo identification and provide exceptions for residents of long-term care facilities, military members, and those with religious prohibitions.
Commissioner Stuart Soffer says the range of acceptable ID types dispels his concerns about the new requirement.
"The amount of ID that is acceptable is overwhelming. It is just absolutely overwhelming. If you take a look at it, I just fail to see how anybody is not going to have one of those forms of ID. They threw such a far net [and] the net they cast is just so wide and so far. This is why I get so frustrated when I hear all the naysayers," says Soffer.
The legislature had to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto to pass the photo ID requirement in the last session. Beebe and the majority of Democratic lawmakers say it puts a burden on voters without resources and there is not sufficient evidence of in-person voter fraud to justify the additional requirement.
The Board’s newest commissioner Chad Pekron says he is intrigued requirements for absentee ballots are less stringent than those for in-person voting.
"Well, it appeared to me that if absentee ballots only require somebody to mail in any sort of non-photo ID - a utility bill, whatever - whereas in person you have to provide some sort of a photo ID, then you've got a lesser standard for absentee ballots," says Pekron.
But any concerns over absentee ballots will have to remain in the commission and out of the law unless the Arkansas General Assembly decides to raise the issue in the future.
The board's chair, Secretary of State Mark Martin, was not able to attend the meeting.