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Arkansas governor rejects voter ID measure

By Joe Sutton and Kevin LiptakCNN
March 26, 2013 -- Updated 0015 GMT (0815 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Proposal would require photo ID to vote
  • Gov. Mike Beebe said the measure was too expensive
  • Beebe also said the bill would unnecessarily restrict the right to vote
  • Numerous legal challenges to voter ID laws; Arizona case before the Supreme Court

(CNN) -- A bill that would have required voters in Arkansas to produce photo identification before being allowed a ballot was rejected on Monday by the state's Democratic governor, who said the measure was too expensive and could disenfranchise legal voters.

Gov. Mike Beebe wrote that he thought the bill "unnecessarily restricts and impairs our citizens' right to vote," adding the implementation costs would have risen to $300,000.

Beebe's spokesman Matt DeCample said those costs would come in "establishing and distributing a new ID card as required by the law," adding the state would be prohibited from charging for the new voter identification cards under the proposed legislation.

Both chambers of Arkansas' legislature passed the voter ID bill, and could override the governor's veto with simple majority votes in both the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

"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 wrote in a letter to state lawmakers.

"I cannot approve such an unnecessary measure that would negatively impact on of our most precious rights as citizens," he continued.

Republicans, who in November took control of Arkansas' legislature for the first time in over a century, have already rejected Beebe's veto this year of a bill to ban abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive such law in the country.

The issue of requiring voters to present photo IDs at polls has been debated nationwide, with Republicans and Democrats generally divided.

Proponents argue an identification requirement is necessary to prevent voter fraud, while opponents claim it creates a hurdle that would prevent otherwise eligible voters from casting ballots.

Voter ID laws in other states have been challenged in court with many cases still pending. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to Arizona's law.

Ten states currently require a photo identification for voters. Another 19 -- including Arkansas -- require some form of identification, though don't mandate it have a picture on it.

The law advanced in Arkansas would have permitted voters without IDs to cast provisional ballots that would be counted when valid identification was presented.

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