the republic logo

Arkansas gubernatorial rivals split on voter ID, trade accusations of flip-flopping at debate

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

CONWAY, Arkansas — Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson split on whether a court was right to strike down Arkansas' voter ID law and accused one another of flip-flopping on key issues as the gubernatorial rivals squared off Thursday for their third televised debate.

The two rivals shared the stage with the Libertarian and Green Party nominees for the state's top office in a debate broadcast by the Arkansas Educational Television Network. The four candidates are running to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

Ross said he agreed with the Arkansas Supreme Court's unanimous decision a day earlier that requiring voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot was unconstitutional, and that he agreed with Beebe's veto of the measure. The Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto.

"Back when they passed the law, they couldn't provide one example in the state of Arkansas where someone had voted fraudulently," Ross said. "I've always consistently said there was no need for it, and I think the Supreme Court made a good decision."

Hutchinson said he was disappointed in the ruling, and that he believed requiring voters to show ID at the polls guaranteed the integrity of the election process. He said he believed the Legislature would look at the ruling, but stopped short of endorsing any response such as an idea floated by some Republicans to put on the 2016 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment on voter ID.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone, but a simple requirement to verify who you are when you go into the voting booth is not an unreasonable burden," Hutchinson said.

Green Party nominee Joshua Drake also praised the court's ruling, saying he believed the measure was aimed at disenfranchising voters.

"It was an effort to suppress the vote, it was unconstitutional, it was unlawful," Drake said.

PHOTO: A woman gives Libertarian Party candidate for Arkansas governor Frank Gilbert, left, a dab of makeup before a televised debate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., as Democratic candidate Mike Ross, center, Green Party nominee Joshua Drake, second from right, and Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson wait to begin Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
A woman gives Libertarian Party candidate for Arkansas governor Frank Gilbert, left, a dab of makeup before a televised debate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., as Democratic candidate Mike Ross, center, Green Party nominee Joshua Drake, second from right, and Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson wait to begin Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Libertarian nominee Frank Gilbert said he believed efforts to prevent election fraud should focus instead on officials, not on voters.

"If we need additional legislation, and I think we do, then let's aim it at the right folks," he said.

The debate was the third televised matchup between Ross and Hutchinson, and the fellow ex-congressmen continued attacking each other's backgrounds and accused each other of switching positions on major issues. The two are set to debate again in Jonesboro.

The two continued sparring over the state's "private option" Medicaid expansion, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. More than 211,000 people are enrolled in the program, approved as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Ross, who has said he supports reauthorizing the program, accused Hutchinson of straddling the fence on whether to continue the program, dismissing his rivals concerns about how the state would pay the 10 percent it eventually will be required to provide for the cost of the expansion.

"The most we ever pay is 10 percent, and the answer can be found in Econ 101 in college," Ross said. "You start covering 200,000 more people, it requires more health care workers, more people have jobs, more people have income, they're paying taxes and the economy grows."

Hutchinson said it would be "foolish" to say he'll continue the program without evaluating it and looking at how the state will pay for its share.

"I will work with (health care providers) to make sure we come up with an affordable solution that our state can afford and not bankrupt our state," Hutchinson said. "Mr. Ross is unwise whenever he says 'I'm for it, regardless of cost, regardless of how many people are on there, let's just do it.' That's not a wise governor."


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

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.