Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has vetoed a Republican-backed measure that would require voters to present a photo identification before casting a ballot, according to a news release from the governor's office Monday.
The governor cited concerns over the bill's constitutionality and expense of implementing the measure.
"While research conducted by the Attorney General's Office could not determine the legal future of the bill if it becomes law, Beebe still has concerns with respect to Article 3 of the Arkansas Constitution," according to the release. "The governor also believes that the bill will unnecessarily cost taxpayers money, grow bureaucracy and risk disenfranchisement of voters." The release said the legislation was "an expensive solution in search of a problem." The Bureau of Legislative Research estimated the state would pay $300,000, not counting the "ongoing costs that the taxpayers will continue to bear in future years," according to the release. The need for the measure is not clear, Beebe said the a statement. "At a time when some argue for the reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy and for reduced government spending, I find it ironic to be presented with a bill that increases government bureaucracy and increases government expenditures, all to address a need that has not been demonstrated," Beebe said in the release. Beebe said he couldn't approve an "unnecessary measure" that may infringe upon voting rights, which he called "one of our most precious rights as citizens."
Arkansas' attorney general said he cannot say for sure whether a proposed Voter ID law would survive a court challenge, according to the Associated Press.
The Legislature has passed a bill that would require voters to show an identification card at the polls. Beebe had until today to decide whether to reject the bill or let it become law.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released an opinion Monday saying he cannot predict whether a court would reject the law on grounds that it imposes a new condition on voter eligibility. McDaniel said, however, that a challenge based on the right of suffrage would likely fail since Arkansas lawmakers would make ID cards available to people who don't currently have them.
Arkansas law currently requires polls workers to ask for identification, but voters can still cast a ballot if they don't have one.
Opponents have said the requirement is unconstitutional and would unfairly disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters. Supporters have said the requirement would help prevent voter fraud.
Lawmakers can override Beebe's veto with a simple majority in the House and Senate. Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature.