- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Absentee voters who don’t provide proof of identification along with their ballots shouldn’t be given additional time to have them counted under Arkansas’ voter ID law, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Monday.

In an advisory opinion, McDaniel wrote that absentee voters aren’t given the same opportunities to cast provisional ballots that will be counted later that voters at the polls are afforded under a voter ID law approved last year.

McDaniel’s opinion conflicts with the advice Secretary of State Mark Martin gave local election officials in northeast Arkansas after dozens of absentee ballots were cast without ID in a special election for a state Senate seat. The Craighead County Election Commission gave absentee voters additional time to turn in their proof of identification based on Martin’s advice.

The law allows voters without photo ID at the polls to cast a provisional ballot that wouldn’t be counted unless they show identification by noon Monday after the election.

“Considering the plain language of the statutes, therefore, I cannot say that the legislature intended for the absentee voter to cast a provisional vote and then return later with identification,” McDaniel’s opinion said.

Alex Reed, a spokesman for Martin’s office, said officials there were reviewing McDaniel’s opinion.

The Pulaski County Election Commission asked for the attorney general’s opinion following the special election, citing the confusion over the ballots. Chris Burks, a member of the Pulaski County Election Commission, said lawmakers need to look at addressing the confusion in the voter ID law.

“I think this opinion highlights the lack of guidance in the law,” Burks said.

Scott McDaniel, chairman of the Craighead County Election Commission, said his panel “erred on the side of the voter” with its decision but said it will follow the attorney general’s advice in the future. He also called on lawmakers to provide some clarity on the issue.

“If elections continue like this, you will see a repeat of what we saw on a grander scale,” said McDaniel, who is a cousin of the attorney general.

The Republican-led Legislature approved the voter ID law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said it plans to ask a state judge to block the law.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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