Arkansas latest in series of defeats for voter photo ID bills

Voter ID.jpgThis week, a senate committee in Arkansas' state legislature rejected a bill that would have required voters to show photo ID at the polls.

The Arkansas vote was the latest in a string of defeats for voter photo ID bills, which state Republicans have aggressively pushed in over a dozen states this year.

As Facing South reported in December and January, GOP lawmakers made no secret about their plans to make photo ID laws a top legislative priority in 2011.

But after scoring relatively quick victories in the chambers of states like South Carolina and Texas* [see update below], proponents have faced a rising tide of opposition from critics who say there's little evidence of fraud, the bills could disenfranchise many voters and would likely cost states millions of dollars.

In Arkansas and other key states, this resistance has led to photo ID bills being delayed or killed altogether:

* This week, Iowa's photo ID bill died after the Senate failed to approve a measure the House had passed earlier. In mid-February, the state's association of election officials -- the majority of which are Republicans -- announced they were opposed to the bill because it "would be expensive, would pinch voter turnout -- and is unnecessary."

* In Mississippi, three House bills that would have required photo ID at the polls -- HB 228, HB 233 and HB 462 -- all died in committee.

* In Colorado, a voter ID bill was postponed indefinitely [pdf] the first week of March.

* New Mexico's HB 577 failed to pass and the state's legislature has finished for 2011, and Hawaii's HB 1359 failed to pass second and third readings, effectively killing it for this session (although it can be revived in 2012).

In other states, bills are being tempered by political compromise.

In an effort to garner Democratic support, the new Republican leadership in North Carolina has announced they will introduce a revised bill next week that allows voters to use their (non-photo) voter registration cards as proof of identity at the polls (although, as watchdog group Democracy North Carolina points out, it erects other new barriers to voting).

Photo ID bills for voting are still alive and well in other parts of the country: Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and other states are all still considering versions of new voter ID bills.

But proponents might have to pass them quickly, because the backlash appears to be growing.

* UPDATE: Reader RG points out that the photo voter ID bill has passed the South Carolina state senate but has yet to pass the house, where it's now being considered. In Texas, it has passed both chambers (the house last week after a long emotional debate) and a final version is being hammered out for Gov. Rick Perry to sign.