Arkansas Supreme Court overturns ruling challenging state election laws  Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a lower court’s ruling and dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of four election-related laws approved by the state Legislature in 2021.  The laws require voters who cast a provisional ballot to provide a photo ID by the Monday following an election for their vote to be counted, prohibit people from standing within 100 feet of a polling location, require county clerks to verify the voter’s signature on an absentee ballot application with the voter’s registration application, and shorten the deadline for in-person absentee ballot delivery. Read Article

Arkansas Supreme Court affirms circuit court decision in voting machine lawsuit | Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate

The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the compliance of voting machines with state law, which was filed by Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative Inc. and CEO Conrad Reynolds against Secretary of State John Thurston, the State Board of Election Commissioners, and Election Systems and Software LLC. The lawsuit argued that voters couldn’t verify their selections because they couldn’t read the barcodes on printed ballots, which the voting machine tabulator scanned. However, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision, citing testimony that voters could review and change their votes on the machine before printing their ballots. Meanwhile, Reynolds continues to challenge voting machines through another lawsuit aiming to certify two proposed constitutional amendments regarding voting methods. Read Article

Arkansas Supreme Court agrees to expedite case filed by group seeking to require paper ballots and limit absentee voting | Matt Campbell/Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Supreme Court has approved an expedited schedule for a lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, seeking paper ballots and restrictions on absentee voting in the state. The group aims to have two proposed constitutional amendments certified for the 2024 ballot. While the case challenges the Attorney General’s authority to certify ballot measures and questions the constitutionality of recent changes to the process, it does not address the substance of the proposed amendments. Read Article

Arkansas Attorney General again rejects ballot language for proposed amendment that would require hand counted paper ballots | Michael R. Wickline/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has rejected proposed ballot language for the Restore Election Integrity Arkansas committee’s second version of a proposed constitutional amendment requiring paper ballots in the state. The proposed amendment would mandate hand marked paper ballots and restricting the use of voting machines to voters with disabilities. The proposed amendment would prohibit precenct tabulation and require that “certification of all elections shall be based on a hand count of the votes performed and verified by human intelligence”. The rejection letter stated unresolved issues with the definition of a “disabled voter.” The committee also faced a rejection for its proposed constitutional amendment imposing limits on absentee voting. A complaint filed against the Secretary of State and the Board of Election Commissioners is seeking the Arkansas Supreme Court’s certification for the proposed amendments’ ballot language. Read Article

Arkansas: Complaint asks state Supreme Court to certify language for proposed amendment to require paper ballots | Michael R. Wickline/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Conrad Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and the non-profit Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, led by Reynolds, have filed a complaint urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to verify the adequacy of proposed ballot language for two constitutional amendments. These amendments aim to mandate paper ballots for Arkansas elections and impose specific restrictions on absentee voting. The complaint, directed against Republican Secretary of State John Thurston and the state Board of Election Commissioners, seeks the court’s certification for the proposed amendments’ popular names and ballot titles. Reynolds challenges two 2023 state laws requiring the attorney general to certify proposed ballot language and petitions to have signatures from at least 50 counties. Read Article

Arkansas; Proposed amendments requiring paper ballots, restricting absentee voting, resubmitted to attorney general’s office | Neal Earley/Magnolia Banner News

Restore Election Integrity Arkansas has resubmitted ballot language for two proposed constitutional amendments to the state attorney general, marking its second attempt. One amendment aims to mandate elections in Arkansas to use hand-marked and hand-counted paper ballots, removing the option for voting machines. The other proposes stricter limits on absentee voting, allowing only registered voters unable to be present at the polls due to physical absence, hospitalization, incarceration, or residing in a long-term care facility to request an absentee ballot. Read Article

Arkansas Attorney General rejects proposed measure to hand count elections | Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has rejected two proposed constitutional amendments aimed at removing voting machines from the state’s election process. The proposed amendments called for hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots and specified absentee ballot procedures. Griffin cited reasons such as “partisan coloring language” and ambiguities in the proposals for rejecting their popular names and ballot titles. The group behind the amendments, Restore Election Integrity Arkansas, plans to revise and resubmit the proposals, which would then require collecting signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot. Read Article

Arkansas: Pulaski County circuit judge tosses out lawsuit challenging state’s voting machines | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A lawsuit challenging the legality of Arkansas’ ballot-counting machines has been dismissed after the plaintiff’s attorney couldn’t demonstrate that the system ever misrepresented a vote. The case revolved around whether the bar code-based system allows voters to independently verify their selections before casting their ballots, as required by Arkansas law. The judge ruled that the system does provide this opportunity, as voters receive printed ballots reflecting their choices after making selections from the computer system. The plaintiff’s argument that the system has flaws or vulnerabilities unrelated to the verification process was not considered relevant to the case. Read Article

Arkansas isn’t ditching voting machines for paper ballots, despite claims online | Philip Marcelo/Associated Press

Claims circulating on social media that Arkansas is transitioning from voting machines to hand countedpaper ballots are false. Arkansas officials, including the Secretary of State’s office, have stated that there has been no statewide change in how voters cast their ballots, and most counties will continue to use voting machines. While one rural county, Searcy County, has approved a plan to start using paper ballots filled in by hand, a final vote on this decision is still pending. Additionally, Cleburne County briefly considered a similar switch but later rescinded the decision. A new law in Arkansas requires counties using hand-marked paper ballots to first tally the ballots by machine for initial results, with the option to conduct a hand count for official results later. Any additional expenses incurred by counties for hand counting will not be reimbursed by the state. Read Article

Arkansas: Searcy County approves resolution to switch to paper ballots for elections | Neal Earley/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Searcy County Quorum Court in Arkansas has approved a resolution in a 6-2 vote to move from using electronic voting machines to paper ballots. This decision, which comes amidst concerns about the security of voting machines, was made following a bipartisan committee’s recommendation. The shift to paper ballots is expected to be finalized through an ordinance at the next Quorum Court meeting in September. The decision aligns with a new state law, Act 350, where counties opting for paper ballots will be responsible for their costs. A nonprofit, the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, advocated for this change. However, Senator Kim Hammer criticized the move, highlighting the financial implications for the county. Read Article

Arkansas: Garland County election coordinator responds to paper ballot push | David Showers/The Sentinel-Record

The election chief of Garland County, Arkansas, Gene Haley, warned that if hand-counted ballots replace bar code voting machines, voters can expect long lines and the possibility of receiving the wrong ballot. Haley responded to claims by the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative that the bar code system used in the county since 2016 is susceptible to fraud. The Voter Integrity Initiative advocates for hand-counted ballots, but Haley argued that it would increase the chances of errors, require more resources and polling locations, and inconvenience voters. Haley emphasized that the machines are not connected to the internet, and the results are transmitted electronically only once on election night. Voting machines are regularly tested for accuracy in accordance with state law. Read Article

Arkansas voting machines suit moved to federal court – use of bar code in tabulation questioned | Daniel McFadin/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A lawsuit challenging the use of bar-code voting machines in Arkansas was moved to federal court this week. The lawsuit was filed by Conrad Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel and 2020 presidential election denier. Reynolds argues that the bar-code machines do not comply with Arkansas law because the voter cannot independently verify the votes selected by the voter on the ballot prior to being cast. Susan Inman, a former elections director for Arkansas, has defended the use of the bar-code machines, saying that they are secure and reliable. The case is still ongoing. Read Article

Arkansas House committee passes bill to regulate paper ballot counties | Hunter Field/Arkansas Advocate

A group of state representatives advanced legislation Monday that would require counties that opt to get rid of voting machines to bear the costs of paper ballots. The Arkansas House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs passed Senate Bill 250 by Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) on a split voice vote after several hours of debate and testimony that included debunked claims and conspiracies about election integrity. The bill was introduced in response to a Donald Trump-connected group’s efforts to convince county quorum courts to ditch voting machines for hand-marked ballots and hand-counted election results. Cleburne County in January became the first county in the state to pivot away from voting machines, but last week, the quorum court repealed that ordinance. An official from the Association of Arkansas Counties told the House committee Monday that the North Arkansas county had passed the January ordinance hastily and may not have realized its full implications. Opponents of SB250 testified the bill would discourage counties from opting to count election results by hand. Hammer said the proposal was not “anti-paper ballot,” saying the bill provides guidelines for any counties that do “deviate” from the rest of the state. Arkansas, he said, has a history of free, fair elections.

Full Article: Arkansas Advocate : Arkansas House committee passes bill to regulate paper ballot counties | Regional News | magnoliareporter.com

Arkansas Senate committee OKs bill to regulate paper ballots and hand counts | Hunter Field/KUAR

A group of state senators on Thursday voted to require Arkansas counties that opt to hand count election returns to first run ballots through vote-counting machines. Senate Bill 250 sponsor Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) and state election officials said the legislation would ensure that preliminary, unofficial election results are reported quickly. Counties would still have the flexibility to conduct official counts by hand. The bill would also require that so-called “paper-ballot counties” cover the expenses of printing paper ballots and ensuring their compatibility with the state’s voting machines. Counties would also have to declare preliminary, unofficial results within 24 hours of the polls closing. The bill comes after Cleburne County last month voted to use hand-marked and hand-counted paper ballots for elections. (Federal law will still require accessible voting equipment for people with disabilities.)

Full Article: Arkansas Senate committee OKs bill to regulate paper ballots and hand counts

Arkansas group pitches hand-count elections to counties as Legislature prepares to weigh in | Hunter Field/Arkansas Advocate

An Arkansas group with connections to former President Donald Trump is traveling the state with a pitch to county quorum courts: ditch the voting machines. Instead, the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative urges counties to rely on paper ballots marked and counted by hand. The group had existed in relative obscurity since it was formed last year by Conrad Reynolds, a retired Army colonel who twice lost in the Republican primary for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat to U.S. Rep. French Hill. But last month, it convinced the first county, Cleburne County, to switch to hand-marked and counted ballots. Now, some of the most conservative members of the Arkansas Legislature appear to have taken notice, filing a bill to require counties that opt to hand-count ballots to pay for it themselves and first run the ballots through a tabulation device. … Pamela Smith, the president and CEO of the nonpartisan election technology group Verified Voting, said there are groups and people across pushing agendas similar to Reynolds’ and AVII’s. However, she said that the hand counting of ballots is not optimal for the initial tally of votes. “The time and place for a hand count is a post-election audit or check to make sure the machines worked correctly or in the recount of a very close race.”

Full Article: Arkansas group pitches hand-count elections to counties as Legislature prepares to weigh in – Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas: Cleburne County Rejects Voting Machines and Votes to Move to Hand Counted Paper Ballots | Magnolia Banner News

The Cleburne County quorum court passed a binding resolution making them a “paper ballot” county, meaning future elections would be administered with hand marked paper ballots that are hand counted. The vote was in response to Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, INC.(AVII) CEO Colonel Conrad Reynolds’ push for election computers to be removed from Arkansas elections. Reynolds stated, “For more than a decade there have been too many unanswered questions with these voting machines, which are essentially computers. The owners of the machine company are intentionally shielded from the public. The machines do not read the names on the ballots, instead they scan barcodes, which humans cannot read. They also utilize proprietary software that we are not allowed to examine. This all means voters cannot verify that their vote is being counted properly as mandated by state law. As a former military intelligence officer, I look at this through a national security perspective and conclude there are big problems with our current voting system.”

Full Article: Cleburne County (Arkansas) Rejects Voting Machines and Votes to Move to Hand Counted Paper Ballots

Arkansas: Former candidate files suit over voting machines using bar codes | Daniel McFadin/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A former candidate for Arkansas’ U.S. House District 2 has filed an “election integrity lawsuit” aiming to prevent Arkansas from using specific voting machines in future elections. Conrad Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel and leader of a group called Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative Inc., filed the lawsuit Monday in Pulaski County against Secretary of State John Thurston, the State Board of Election Commissioners, and Election Systems and Software (ES&S). The lawsuit contends that “the voting machines currently approved by the Secretary of State and the State Board of Election Commissioners fail to comply with state law.” The lawsuit, which was assigned to Judge Tim Fox on the 6th Judicial Circuit, urges the court to rule that the ExpressVote and DS200 voting machines used by the state “do not comply with Arkansas law because the voter cannot independently verify the votes selected by the voter on the ballot prior to being cast by the voter as the ordinary and common voter cannot read bar codes.” According to the lawsuit, voters mark their ballots using ExpressVote, which prints a ballot summary card that includes a bar code at the top “allegedly encoding the voter’s selected candidates and/ or issues.” The summary card is fed into the DS200, which tabulates the votes by reading the bar code. Because “most ordinary and common voters cannot read a bar code,” the lawsuit contends, the state law requiring that the voter be able to verify their vote is not met.

Full Article: Former candidate files suit over voting machines using bar codes

Arkansas House rejects bill to lop day of early voting | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A bill that would have eliminated early voting in Arkansas on the last Monday before Election Day failed on the House floor Tuesday. Senate Bill 485 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, failed three times in a Senate committee before it was signed out and taken to the Senate floor, then took two tries to advance from a House committee. It failed in the House on a 43-39 vote, falling 12 votes short of the simply majority of 51 it needed to pass. House sponsor Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, and supporters of the bill said it would provide more time for poll workers to get ready for Election Day without having to work long hours that Monday. Voting-rights organizations and lawmakers who opposed the bill equated it with voter suppression, and said election officials they’d spoken to didn’t see a need for a change. More than 30 people rallied in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday morning and lined the steps to the House chamber, urging lawmakers to vote down the bill. Arkansas has 13 days of early voting. If enacted, SB485 would have reduced that number to 12 and would have made the last Saturday before the election the final day of early voting.

Full Article: House rejects bill to lop day of early voting

Arkansas counties seek polling tech upgrades | Tom Sissom/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Election officials in Benton and Washington counties are considering upgrading the electronic poll books used to check in voters during elections, with a cost of about $250,000 per county. The Washington County Election Commission on Wednesday authorized Jennifer Price, election director, to prepare a request for funding from the Quorum Court. Price said the county has 166 electronic poll books that have been used since 2016. In the 2020 election, problems with the poll books included failure to maintain a charge, inability to stay connected to Wi-Fi and voter signature pages freezing. Price said the new poll books should solve those problems and will offer new features. “There are several updates that will be beneficial to the voters and election officials,” Price said. “The poll books we have were received by the county in 2016 so they’re reaching the end of their useful life.” Price said the new poll books have screens that are easier to use for both voters and poll workers, and will directly scan driver’s licenses and other state IDs. The computers can issue provisional ballots that will not be scanned by the county’s vote counting machines until approved by the Election Commission and can generate reports the older poll books can’t.

Full Article: Counties seek polling tech upgrades

Arkansas Begins 2020 Election-Audit Pilot Program | Nadia Ramlagan/KUAF

As President Donald Trump continues to insist the presidential election was marred by what he has called “massive voter fraud” that resulted in a win for President-elect Joe Biden, more states and counties are implementing election auditing procedures. Experts say audits are a crucial element of election oversight, but the general public may not be familiar with the process. Tammy Patrick, senior advisor with the group Democracy Fund, said there are different kinds of audits for different purposes, but any of them can be helpful. “If you wanted to know if the poll workers made an error, what kind of audit would you think about doing? A reconciliation audit. If you wanted to know if the machine or machines counted or worked correctly, quite often it’s a hand-count audit,” Patrick said. “And if you want to know, like, was the correct winner called, that’s where the risk-limiting audit comes into play.” Under a law that went into effect in 2019, Arkansas state officials have 60 days to begin auditing general election results in at least four counties. To complete the audit, the State Board of Election Commissioners will select the polling sites, early voting locations and vote centers to be audited.

Full Article: Arkansas Begins 2020 Election-Audit Pilot Program | KUAF

Arkansas: Absentee vote lawsuit moot, Thurston says; he calls virus fear accepted reason to skip going to polls | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston says a lawsuit over absentee balloting during the covid-19 pandemic is unnecessary now that he’s acknowledged that fear of infection is justification for voters to cast ballots by mail or by drop-off. Three voters in their 70s, two with health issues, sued the Republican, the state’s top election official, two weeks ago, calling on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to order Thurston to allow absentee voting under the standards set by a 1985 Arkansas Supreme Court holding. The three, Olly Neal Jr., a retired Arkansas Court of Appeals judge; Democrat Susan Inman, a former state elections director who unsuccessfully challenged Thurston; and Jan Baker, a lawyer who led the Disability Rights Center of Arkansas for more than 18 years, stated in court filings that they are suing because election authorities appear to be following a more restrictive standard for mail-in and drop-in voting than established by the high court 35 years ago. They stated they are afraid of catching the coronavirus if they are forced to go to the polls to vote, like Arkansas law requires.

Arkansas: Virus OK as excuse for voting absentee in Arkansas, Governor says | John Moritz/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Any Arkansans who fear going to the polls this fall during the coronavirus pandemic can use their concerns as an excuse to vote absentee, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday. The governor, who had not previously committed to expanding the use of mail-in or absentee ballots during the election, made the announcement alongside the chairmen of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties, as well as Secretary of State John Thurston. Arkansas law allows voters to request absentee ballots if they will be “unavoidably absent” on Election Day or if they have illnesses or physical disabilities. Thurston said last week in a news release that he believed the law will allow voters to choose whether to vote absentee during the pandemic, an interpretation with which Hutchinson said he concurred. “They just simply have a concern, a fear of going to the polling place because of the covid-19, that’s enough of a reason” to vote absentee, Hutchinson said.

Arkansas: In filing, state GOP chief, legislator urge dismissal of absentee-voting suit | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A lawsuit over absentee voting in Arkansas during the covid-19 pandemic should be dismissed because the litigation is unnecessary, the head of the state Republican Party and a GOP state House of Representatives member argue in pleadings filed Monday. Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb and state Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, have responded to the week-old lawsuit before the only defendant, Secretary of State John Thurston, has answered the suit. The lawsuit seeks to ensure that voters who fear exposure to covid-19 do not have to vote at the polls where large crowds carry the risk of infection, but can cast absentee ballots without having to justify their reasons to authorities. Absentee votes can be cast either by mail or by dropping off a ballot before Election Day. Arkansas law requires voters to explain, under penalty of perjury, why they need to vote absentee before being allowed to do so.

Arkansas: Governor Wants To Decide On Arkansas Absentee Voting By August 1 | Steve Brawner/KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he hopes to make a decision by August 1 regarding allowing voters in Arkansas more flexibility to vote absentee this November. He made the comment at his daily press conference June 24 in response to a reporter’s question about a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County seeking no-excuse absentee voting. He said has been communicating with the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, Secretary of State John Thurston, and county officials. “My timeframe is to make some decisions based upon their guidance and their requests sometime before August 1,” he said. “And that way there is adequate time to prepare for the election and make any adjustments that are needed.” Arkansas voters now must sign a form when voting absentee certifying that they will be “unavoidably absent” on Election Day,” that they will be unable to vote in person “because of illness or physical disability,” or that they reside in a state-licensed long-term care or residential facility. They also can vote absentee if they are a member or the spouse of a member of the military or merchant marines, or if they temporarily live outside the United States. Written in all-caps at the top of the form are the words, “If you provide false information on this form, you may be guilty of perjury and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years.”

Arkansas: Mail-in voting focus of suit filed in state | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The national battle over voting by mail opened a front in Little Rock on Tuesday when a retired Arkansas Court of Appeals judge and a former state elections director filed suit to force election officials to abide by a 35-year-old state Supreme Court ruling that greatly expanded the right to absentee balloting. Arkansas election authorities appear to have embraced a more restrictive standard for mail-in voting than the high court established in 1985, say Olly Neal Jr., the former judge, and Susan Inman, the former director, in their lawsuit that calls on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to order Secretary of State John Thurston to follow the Supreme Court holding in the November election. They are further asking the judge to bar Thurston from requiring voters to explain why they would want to vote by mail. No hearings have been scheduled.

Arkansas: Voting machines arrive, but safe storage an issue | Dale Ellis/Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Two semitrailers were filled to capacity with 148 ballot markers, 148 stands, 80 poll tablets and printers, 41 vote tabulators, and assorted equipment intended to get the county up to the latest standard in voting hardware and software. The equipment, supplied by Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software, was part of a $2.7 million purchase made by the Arkansas secretary of state’s office using state and federal funds to provide new voting equipment to nine Arkansas counties that lacked adequate funding to share the cost with the state. By the March 3 primary, 64 Arkansas counties had upgraded to the new ExpressVote system, purchased through a mixture of local, state and federal funds. Pulaski and Scott counties signed contracts in February to receive new voting equipment. The nine remaining counties — Bradley, Conway, Fulton, Jefferson, Lee, Monroe, Newton, Searcy and Stone — were notified last month that they would receive the equipment without having to come up with matching funds after the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a sharp economic downturn.

Arkansas: Governor expresses support for no-excuse absentee voting, doesn’t commit to November implementation | Andrew Epperson/KNWA

With important elections coming up in November, scientists expect another COVID-19 spike before the polls open. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Wednesday expressed support for no-excuse absentee ballots but fell short of saying he’d use emergency powers to implement them before voting season. “If there is an issue that needs to be addressed in November in which we’re still in a public health emergency, I will at that time use the powers for no-excuse absentee voting,” Hutchinson said. The legislature approved Hutchinson’s temporary emergency powers to battle the COVID-19 outbreak. By November, these powers may no longer be wielded, he said.

Arkansas: Counties to get help for election; state to apply federal funds of $4.7M for ballots, machines | Michael R. Wickline/Northwest Arkansas Newspapers

Secretary of State John Thurston said Wednesday that his office is working on a plan to help counties by using $4.7 million in federal funds to help mitigate coronavirus concerns during the Nov. 3 general election. “We are looking at helping counties with maybe larger venues, where they may spread their machines out a little more,” by possibly renting out larger places for polling sites and also purchasing sanitizing products, the East End Republican told the state Board of Election Commissioners that he chairs. “Obviously, absentee voting, we believe, will increase, and we just want to help the counties with those federal dollars and helping purchase all the things that they will need for that,” Thurston said. He said his office hasn’t “totally ironed out all the details” on spending the federal grant obtained through the U.S. Election Assistance Commission under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

Arkansas: State finds cash to buy 9 counties voting gear; cost of equipment estimated at $2.7M | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Secretary of State John Thurston’s office has decided to use state and federal funds to pay for new voting equipment in the nine Arkansas counties that don’t have updated equipment for the Nov. 3 general election. The counties, initially, were to share a portion of the costs for new equipment. “Given the impact the covid-19 pandemic has had across the state, the secretary of state’s office has had to reassess our plan in working with the remaining nine counties for new election equipment,” said Kevin Niehaus, public relations director for the Republican secretary of state. “With the counties needing to realign their fiscal priorities, it became apparent to us that fully funding the election equipment for these counties was the only viable option,” he said in a written statement. “With the integrity of our elections at stake, having all 75 counties working off the new equipment has always been a top priority.” The nine counties are Bradley, Conway, Fulton, Jefferson, Lee, Monroe, Newton, Searcy and Stone.