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Arkansas House votes to override veto of voter ID bill

Arkansas governor Mike Beebe looks on during a Martin Luther King Jr. service in Little Rock, Arkansas in this January 15, 2013 Governor's o
Arkansas governor Mike Beebe looks on during a Martin Luther King Jr. service in Little Rock, Arkansas in this January 15, 2013 Governor's o

By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers in Arkansas voted on Monday to override a veto by the state's Democratic governor and approve a bill that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, prompting an outcry from civil libertarians who vowed to fight the law.

Legislators in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives voted 52-45 to override Democratic Governor Mike Beebe's veto, joining the state Senate, which had voted on March 27 to approve the new law over his objections.

Arkansas will join nearly three dozen U.S. states that have voter ID measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The laws are part of a nationwide effort by Republicans at the state level to prevent voter fraud. Critics say they hinder low-income and minority voters and are challenging the laws in several state courts.

"Arkansans will be well-served by this new electoral safeguard," Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas is "very likely" to challenge the law in court and is looking at its options, Director Rita Sklar said. She said the law would disenfranchise or burden the poor, racial minorities, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In his veto letter on March 25, Beebe had said he "believes that the bill will unnecessarily cost taxpayers money, grow bureaucracy and risk disenfranchisement of voters."

It was the third time this year that Arkansas legislators had overridden a Beebe veto, which they can do with a simple majority vote in each chamber. The prior overrides this year involved two bills providing restrictions on abortion.

The law takes effect next January 1, or when the Secretary of State has the funding to provide county clerks statewide the equipment and training to produce photo ID cards, which is estimated to cost $300,000.

The law requires county clerks to make photo ID cards at no cost for registered voters who do not have other valid forms of identification. Voters who lack identification may cast provisional ballots, which would be counted if they return with photo identification.

Arkansas law has permitted poll workers to ask voters for identifying documents, but voters have not been required to show them.

(Reporting by Suzi Parker; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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