As an older Arkansan, I’m very concerned about the bill (SB 2) requiring all voters to present a photo ID before they are allowed to vote. I’m concerned for the friends that I take to the polls because they no longer drive and don’t have a driver’s license or a current photo ID from a job. The bill is very specific in that an expired driver’s license will only be accepted at the polls for up to 4 years. If you stopped driving 5 years ago, you’ve lost the right to vote that you have cherished all these years, unless of course you live in a nursing home. Nursing home residents can ask the facility administrator to vouch for who they are so they can submit an absentee ballot. Unfortunately, that leaves the rest of us who have not been institutionalized standing at the polls, trying to prove to our neighbors – the volunteers at the polls – that we are who we have been saying we are for decades.
This situation puts me in mind of a trip I made to the Laman library with my best friend and closest neighbor, Casey Laman. His library card had expired and the librarian asked him for a photo ID to renew the card. Casey no longer carried his expired driver’s license, so we just stood there at an impasse until the deliberations of several staff members resulted in accepting the large portrait of a handsome young Mayor Laman on the wall and Casey’s name on the door in lieu of the mandated photo ID.
The bill discusses at length other acceptable forms of documentation to take to the polls, including a hypothetical voter identification card to be issued by the Secretary of State. So why am I worried? Because provision of voter identification cards will only happen if funds are allocated to this endeavor by the legislature, even if the consumer picks up the tab for the card itself. It will cost the State money that it doesn’t have, in light of the Medicaid shortfall, education costs, senior centers, etc., etc. There will also be no funding to pay for education of the public about new voting regulations and all the alternate ways to confirm a voter’s identity, in the absence of a current driver’s license. Nevertheless, the bill will go into effect with or without funding. I understand that the purpose of this bill was something other than disenfranchising Arkansas seniors and people with disabilities. Nevertheless, I resent the fact that we may become the collateral damage of this thoughtless bill and, should it not pass and we retain our right to vote, I will rally other seniors to vote out of office all our elected officials who signed on to SB 2.
North Little Rock