Column- "Voter ID is Essential"

Voter ID is Essential

By Lieutenant Governor Mark A. Darr

In less than two months, Americans will elect a new president. In many countries, citizens do not have the freedom to elect their leaders. This right, guaranteed in our Constitution, has set the United States apart as an example to the world. It is a right for which people have died. It is a right we must protect.

There are those who have sought to take this right away from others to further their own desire for power. Election fraud, stealing votes, rigging elections or whatever you want to call it, it shows a lack of respect for one's fellow man and for one's country when it is done.

It is because of this that I believe the time has come for us to pass a voter identification law in Arkansas. Our republic and our government are built upon a system of checks and balances. It is imperative that we protect the integrity of this system. Opponents of voter identification laws have said we don't need a law because there is no voter fraud in Arkansas. Recent news events have shown that this isn't the case. Right now, poll workers can ask you to show an ID, but it is not required that you show one. This is just going through the motions. It's time we got serious about the integrity of our election process.

Opponents of voter identification laws say that supporters are trying to prevent certain people from voting. "Voter suppression" is a buzzword they use as a scare tactic to convince others this is true. Nothing could be further from the truth. This issue is not about "voter suppression".

Critics of voter ID laws claim that they are discriminatory against minorities. They accuse supporters of the law of being racists and seeking to suppress minority votes. I take great offense at that accusation. Isn't it racist to suggest that all minority voters are the same and that they aren't capable of following the law? Isn't it racist to say that no minority voter could possibly get an ID card on their own and that we have to make special rules because they can't figure out how to do it? What a condescending point of view that is.

Detractors of voter identification laws also claim that they place a financial burden on citizens who cannot afford a government ID. Yet, when legislation was proposed to provide free voter identification cards, they still opposed it.

In 2011, State Representative Bryan King sponsored House Bill 1797, which would have tightened election security and offered voter identification cards at no charge. It narrowly passed the State House with 53 votes out of 100, but it failed to get voted out of committee in the State Senate and did not become law. Rep. King has said he will reintroduce voter ID legislation during the next session and has proposed putting it into the Arkansas Constitution. I support this. Let's take a stand as a state and say we won't tolerate threats to fair elections by corrupt politicians and their operatives.

I remember watching the news a few years ago about the first elections held in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Turnout was huge. People showed up in droves and the lines were incredibly long. Elections had not mattered under their former dictator. Now, they were determining their country's future. I remember the pictures of free Iraqis proudly holding up ink-stained fingers to show that they had voted. There, they used indelible ink to stain each voter's finger to make sure they only voted once. If they are concerned with preventing voter fraud in Iraq, shouldn't we be concerned with preventing it here?

On a solemn note, this week marks 11 years since the events of September 11, 2001. We still have troops in Afghanistan and across the world who are at war every day fighting. Say a prayer for all of those who are deployed in harm's way or are preparing to go and pray also for our military families who sacrifice as well.