House Rules Committee Decides Voter ID Bill Needs Only Simple Majority (UPDATED)

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 186 views 

The Arkansas House Rules Committee ruled that a controversial bill requiring a photo ID to vote only needs a simple majority to pass the two chambers of the state legislature, not a supermajority.

The committee, which has 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats, appeared split along party lines, but was passed on a voice vote upon the ruling of the chair, Rep. Stephanie Malone (R-Fort Smith).

Opponents of the bill have argued that the measure – by affecting voter participation to include a photo ID – alters the requirements for voter registration, the crux of Amendment 51. Supporters say that the bill does not affect voter registration, only voting at the polls.

Amendment 51 has permissive language to allow it to be altered, but it requires a two-thirds supermajority of votes in the two legislative chambers.

Earlier in the week, Speaker of the House Davy Carter (R-Cabot) referred SB 2 to the House Rules committee to interpret if it had been transmitted properly to the House from the State Senate where it received 23 of 35 votes – an easy majority, but one vote shy of a two-thirds supermajority.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), requires a photo ID to be presented at the polls in order to vote.

“I think it all comes down to whether or not the bill addresses Amendment 51 or doesn’t,” said Rep. John Burris (R-Harrison), who voted with the Rules committee majority that it did not.

Rep. Darrin Williams (D-Little Rock), who led arguments that it requires a two-thirds vote, disagreed, “Clearly, it’s germane to Amendment 51.”

The bill now will be presented to the full House for consideration and will only require 51 votes for passage.

UPDATE: SB 2 was considered on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon. After a contentious and heated debate, House members passed the voter ID bill by a 51-44 margin.  Fifty Republicans and one Democrat (Rep. Walls McCrary) voted for the bill, while Democrats accounted for the no votes.

Speaker Carter met with reporters following the contentious floor debate to answer questions. You can watch the video below or listen to a mp3 here.