Early voting in the 2014 general election is well underway, and we can all rejoice in the fact that the most expensive, most negative mid-term election in American history will soon be history.

Early voting in the 2014 general election is well underway, and we can all rejoice in the fact that the most expensive, most negative mid-term election in American history will soon be history.


I don’t vote early, but I’m glad that others do. Having covered so many elections as a journalist, I still feel a bit of excitement in going to the polls on election day, and it’s less crowded now.


One thing that shouldn’t be an issue for voters, thanks to a recent decision by the state Supreme Court, is proving identification before being allowed to vote. Only a few first-time voters who registered by mail can be legally required to show a photo ID in Arkansas.


Years before the passage in 2013 of Act 595, I pulled out my driver’s license when checking in at the polls. That was only because it tended to help the election official find my last name, which is difficult to spell and pronounce.


But I’ll admit to feeling some resentment when, while voting in Jonesboro’s special election in August, I was asked to "confirm" my address — a little test by the poll worker holding my license. Whether my ballot would have been placed on hold if I had not answered correctly, I’ll never know. But I know other voters failed similar tests and were disenfranchised while this awful law was in effect.


Act 595 was part of a national movement designed to meet a problem that didn’t exist except in the imaginations of some people. But the notion of stopping voter fraud was immensely successful, at least in getting legislatures to bite. By last summer at least 33 states, including Arkansas, had some laws in effect requiring voters to provide proof of identity at the polls before voting.


Those laws haven’t done as well in court challenges.


The theory is that voter ID laws prevent someone from going to the polls and casting a ballot in the name of someone else; if enough people did that, according to the imaginations of some, they could swing an election, presumably to a Democrat.


The problem is that hasn’t been a problem. The nonpartisan Government Accounting Office in a recent court filing cited a U.S. Department of Justice review of its databases and other records that found "no apparent cases of in-person voter impersonation" anywhere in the United States from 2004 through July 3, 2014.


Another study in South Carolina that looked at allegations of 200 ballots being cast by deceased persons found that all but five could be attributed to errors by state or local officials.


Common sense tells us that trying to swing one vote at a time is awfully inefficient. Historically, successful voter fraud efforts in Arkansas and other states have been committed hundreds of ballots at a time, such as by stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes. Act 595 didn’t address such problems.


Neither did the law address the problem of a voter registering in two or more states at the same time and then voting wherever convenient — which became an issue in this year’s race for Arkansas attorney general. There was no evidence of fraud, but it certainly showed the need for a legislative remedy.


Voting is our most fundamental right, and the state’s highest court correctly said that adding an ID requirement does not square with what our state Constitution says. "Act 595 would erroneously necessitate every lawfully registered voter in Arkansas to re-qualify themselves in each election," the court said in unanimously rejecting the law.


If you want to change the Constitution, do so in the proper way. Instead, the Legislature tried to amend the Constitution by statute — on partisan votes and over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, who correctly warned the lawmakers that they were making a serious, unconstitutional error.


The House of Representatives took the final action with an override vote on April 1, 2013, a day that said something about what had been done.


The General Assembly may try again with a proposed amendment, but that would be a monumental waste of time and money. There still isn’t a problem to solve here, and we have plenty of other real problems that could use attention.


While failing to address a problem, voter ID laws tend to disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, students and poor people. The GAO found 10 academic studies that confirm people in these classes are least likely to own driver’s licenses or other valid IDs.


Adding requirements to vote simply discourages people from voting, and we already have low voter participation in this state and across the country, even in presidential election years.


• • •


Roy Ockert is editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun. He may be reached by email at royo@suddenlink.net.