story by Roby Brock, a TCW content partner and owner of Talk Business
Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, is no stranger to controversy and in the 2013 regular session, he’ll continue his familiarity with political firestorms.
After three terms in the Arkansas House, the first-term State Senator says he has filed or is planning to file a number of bills aimed at altering election laws in Arkansas.
One of his most passionate measures, SB 2, requires proof of identity when voting.
SB 2 would allow for photo IDs at polling places on election day, but would allow for other utility bills, bank statements or government documents if voting by mail. There are exceptions for those living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Those without ID could vote a provisional ballot under the bill’s guidelines and the Secretary of State is required to establish a voter identification card system for those without a driver’s license.
King is also planning to incorporate the legislation into a constitutional amendment.
“Once we pass this out in this session, which I’m hoping to if it’s challenged in court, if we put it on the ballot, put it as part of the constitution such as Mississippi did – that it makes it stronger for those few people that continue to say this is a bad thing to do,” King said.
He says his research shows that in states that have passed voter ID legislation, voter turnout has increased.
“We’ve seen in other states that have passed photo ID that turnout has actually went up in minorities, in all age groups,” King said, adding that he thinks it instills confidence in the election system.
The American Civil Liberties Union has advised it will challenge King’s bill if it becomes law, but King said he’s not worried by the legal threat.
“We think, as I’ve talked to our bill attorneys, that my bill is constitutional,” he said.
Other election reform legislation that King says he’s working on includes measures to address absentee ballot fraud, election commissioner reform, and a new system for the prosecution of election fraud by independent judges and prosecutors.
He also wants to establish a “voter integrity unit” to investigate election fraud complaints that King says are often ignored by the State Board of Election Commissioners.
“[The unit] will operate much like the Ethics Commission, where if you file a complaint as a candidate or election official, there’s going to be somebody go look into it,” King said.