by Max Brantley
The bill is a carbon copy of legislation introduced nationally by Republicans for what some Republicans have acknowledged in moments of candor is expected to depress turnout among poor and minority voters who don't possess driver's licenses, the most common form of ID.
The bill would allow a means to get a voter ID, but it would require trips to a county office to do it. Also, though votes can be cast without ID, they may be counted only after a return trip to prove identity.
Gov. Mike Beebe said the bill presented an impediment to voting, plus amounted to an unfunded mandate. I reprinted Gov. Beebe's eloquent veto message in my column this week.
Rep. John Walker spoke strongly against the bill. He disputed Meeks argument that the potential for voter fraud — even if specific examples hadn't been shown — discouraged people from voting for a lack of confidence in the process. He said people of color wouldn't support the legislation.
UPDATE: The veto was overriden 52-45. I don't have roll call yet, but it sounds like Speaker Carter got the Democratic support he wanted so that a bipartisan label could be put on the vote. Three didn't vote.
I'm guessing one of those was Speaker Carter. A Republican Twitter said the override passed with all 51 Republicans, including Carter, and one Democrat. The speaker traditionally doesn't vote, except in critical circumstances. As events would prove, his vote was critical.
UPDATE II: John Burris has Twittered that the one Democrat was Fred Love, a black representative from Little Rock, and that he thought it was an accident. It is April 1, however. Still searching for the roll call. Further Twitters note that Love has asked that his vote may be expunged. He may enter a journal entry to that effect, which will again produce a strictly partisan outcome on the legislation. Speaker Carter didn't have a choice but to vote if he wanted to remain a viable Republican candidate in the future. But he was able to come off looking slightly moderate by chafing sponsoring Sen. Bryan King by not moving quickly last week on the override vote and by telling off former Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro for jumping him in a nasty e-mail.
UPDATE III: Here's the roll call. Not voting — same effect as a no — were Reps. James McLean, Nate Steel and Jeff Wardlaw.
Such laws have been challenged successfully in other states. There's been some talk of a lawsuit here on this legislation, though the groups most interested have their hands full already with unconstitutional legislation on abortion and other topics.
UPDATE IV: Love's comment in response to my e-mail question:
Was definitely a mistake. I[t] will never be my intent to undermine the Voter Rights Act.