As expected, the Pulaski County Election Commission voted this morning to sue over a new state Board of Election Commissioners rule on handling absentee ballots submitted without ID required under a 2013 law. The action will be broad, which means it could expand into the whole question of the constitutionality of the Voter ID law generally. The vote was 2-0 by Democratic commissioners Chris Burks and Leonard Boyle. The Republican member, Phil Wyrick, resigned last week because he became a candidate for county judge. The Party must appoint a replacement. Wyrick had favored following the attorney general’s opinion on handling absentee ballots, which is at variance with the state board’s new rule.
The new Voter ID law does not provide a “cure” for absentee voters who fail to mail in required ID. Secretary of State Mark Martin had decided in a special Senate election to recommend giving absentee voters with deficient ballots a week to present ID to the county clerk. This is the same privilege afforded in-person voters. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said the rule isn’t provided by law. Pulaski County will challenge the rule as unconstitutional for that reason.
The theory to be lenient is to increase the possibility that votes would be counted. On the Republican side, it’s also to provide cover for the sloppy drafting of a law designed to discourage voter participation, in person and by absentee, by Democratic constituencies. The legislation was developed by national Republican-leaning groups to pass around the country. In practice in the special Senate election, few of the absentee voters who failed to produce IDs responded to the opportunity to fix their votes. It’s not surprising since so many absentee voters are elderly people with limited transportation or ability to get around.