Only four Arkansas counties will have the state’s new voting equipment in time for the primary elections, Rob Hammons, elections division director for the secretary of state’s office, told the Arkansas County Election Commissions Association on Tuesday. Hammons spoke as a part of the association’s meeting at the Holiday Inn in Little Rock near Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field. About 200 election officials from across the state attended. Although the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 151 of 2015, allowing the secretary of state’s office to replace election commission equipment for up to $30 million, no money was set aside to pay for the equipment. “So we had the funding as far as the appropriation, but we never got the check,” Hammons said, adding that unfunded acts are common and occur when lawmakers must prioritize the state budget. “And that’s fine,” he said. “That happens all the time.”
New voting system equipment for the state of Arkansas has been selected, but Mississippi County will likely not implement the new paper ballot system until November 2016. Secretary of State Mark Martin has chosen Election Systems & Software (ES&S) as the vendor for any state-purchased integrated voting system equipment going forward. This announcement comes after months of evaluation and analysis and input from state and county officials.
Arkansas must be more aggressive in replacing antiquated ballot counters and touch-screen voting machines or risk delayed results and equipment problems in the 2016 elections, election officials said Wednesday. Election commissioners and coordinators from Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Madison and Washington counties met with several state legislators for a roundtable covering voting equipment, election schedules and other issues. Those from Benton, Crawford and Washington counties in particular said the plan to replace all 75 counties’ decade-old equipment doesn’t have the needed urgency. “We need answers,” said Bill Taylor, a commissioner for Crawford County. “If we’re going to do it, we need to just do it. We need to proceed.”
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin is scaling back plans to replace the state’s voting machines for next year’s primary and says the new equipment will instead be deployed in just four counties. Martin on Wednesday said Boone, Columbia, Garland and Sebastian counties will be part of a pilot program to replace voting equipment ahead of the March 1 primary. Martin last week selected Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software to replace the state’s voting equipment.
Secretary of State Mark Martin has decided to purchase a statewide, integrated voting system, including new voting equipment, through a Nebraska-based company although its proposal costs millions more than systems offered by two other companies. The company, Elections Systems & Software (ES&S), submitted a proposal costing $29,928,868; California-based Unisyn Voting Solutions submitted $24,407,805; and Austin, Texas-based Hart InterCivic proposed $18,789,997, Martin spokesman Chris Powell said Monday. When it requested proposals from companies, Martin’s office said they couldn’t exceed $30 million. “The primary factor in the selection of ES&S was capabilities,” Powell said.
An Arkansas judge erred when he struck down Arkansas’ voter identification law, an official with Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office argued Thursday before the Arkansas Supreme Court. A lawyer for a group of voters challenging the law argued that the Supreme Court should uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s May 2 ruling that the law imposes new qualifications for voting in Arkansas, in violation of the state constitution. The state’s highest court heard oral arguments but did not immediately issue a ruling in the state’s appeal of Fox’s ruling striking down Act 595 of 2013, which requires Arkansas voters to show photo identification at the polls. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the Republican-backed measure last year, but the Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto. Fox stayed his ruling pending the state’s appeal, so Act 595 was in effect for the May 20 primary election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said more than 1,000 ballots went uncounted in that election because of the law.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday that the secretary of state’s office will defend Arkansas’ voter ID law when a lawsuit over its constitutionality goes before the state Supreme Court next week. McDaniel, a Democrat, said he agreed to yield to Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office the state’s argument time when justices hold a hearing on the law Oct. 2. The state has appealed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s May ruling that the law, which took effect in January, violates Arkansas’ constitution. Fox stayed his ruling, meaning the law is still in effect.
A coalition of groups that advocate for voters’ rights is alleging that public assistance agencies in Arkansas are failing to provide voter-registration services as required under the National Voter Registration Act. Voting rights groups Demos, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP, Project Vote, and the Proskauer Rose law firm sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mark Martin advising him that Arkansas agencies must comply with the law or face litigation. The groups offered to work cooperatively with Martin and other state officials to achieve compliance.
A circuit judge’s order barring enforcement of Arkansas’ voter identification law should be upheld and a stay of the order should be lifted, attorneys for four voters who challenged the law argued Monday in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court. Also Monday, college professors, activist groups and an Arkansas county clerk asked the court for permission to file friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the plaintiffs’ position, and the plaintiffs asked for permission to present oral arguments. On May 2, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of Act 595 of 2013, finding that the law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls is unconstitutional. Fox stayed his order, pending an expected appeal, so the law remained in effect for the May 20 primary election and the June 10 runoff election. Secretary of State Mark Martin, named as a defendant in the voters’ lawsuit, is appealing Fox’s order to the Supreme Court. The Arkansas Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center, who filed the lawsuit challenging Act 595 on behalf of four Arkansas voters, had a Monday deadline to file a brief in the case.
A judge’s stay of his ruling that Arkansas’ voter ID law is unconstitutional should remain in place, Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office argued in a filing Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Pulaski Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled May 2 that Act 595 of 2013, which requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, is unconstitutional because it imposes qualifications for voting in Arkansas that go beyond the qualifications set out in the state constitution. Fox stayed his ruling, however, so Act 595 remained in effect in the May 20 primary election and the June 10 runoff election.
Arkansas: Voter ID law a ‘procedural requirement,’ secretary of state argues in court papers | Associated Press
A Pulaski County judge didn’t follow proper court-mandated guidelines when he found Arkansas’ new voter ID law unconstitutional, attorneys for Secretary of State Mark Martin argued in court papers. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled in May that requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot violated the Arkansas Constitution by creating a new qualification to vote. He also said lawmakers did not properly approve the measure, citing a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to change the voter registration process.
A judge on Wednesday scheduled a May 2 hearing to consider motions in a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Wednesday also was the final day for attorneys to file briefs in a separate lawsuit over how absentee ballots should be handled under the law. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox scheduled a hearing in a lawsuit alleging that Act 595 of 2013, which took effect Jan. 1, unconstitutionally burdens voters by subjecting them to requirements that go beyond the requirements set forth in the Arkansas Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last week on behalf of four Arkansas voters. This week, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to bar enforcement of the law before the May 20 primary and nonpartisan election.
Arkansas’ Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday adopted rules for handling absentee ballots under the state’s new voter ID law despite a lawsuit that accuses the board of overstepping its authority. The rules allow an absentee voter who does not provide a proper ID when voting until noon on the Monday after the election to provide an approved form of ID — such as a copy of a driver’s license. The rules also say those absentee voters should be notified via first class mail that they must submit approved forms of identification before their votes can be counted. “What we’re doing is making sure that we’re not disenfranchising any voters,” said Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, the chairman of the election board.
Arkansas: Pulaski County to sue over state election board’s rule on absentee voting | Arkansas Times
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.
Election commissioners in Craighead County have suggested a change in Arkansas’ voter ID law, saying they received conflicting advice on how to treat absentee ballots submitted during a recent special election. The local panel said the State Board of Election Commissioners told them voters were required to present a valid form of identification when turning in ballots during a special state Senate election this month, and that any that came in without a proper ID should be rejected. The secretary of state told the Craighead County Election Commission to give voters a period of time to show a proper ID after submitting an absentee ballot. Craighead County Election Commission Chairman Scott McDaniel said the panel chose to wait and give voters extra time. In a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin, the Election Commissioners Board and numerous state senators and representatives, the Craighead County panel said it was concerned that, in the future, different counties would follow different procedures involving the same race.
The American Civil Liberties Union renewed its stated intention Wednesday to challenge a new law in Arkansas requiring voters to present a photo ID when appearing at the polls. Staff attorney for ACLU of Arkansas, Holly Dickson, told reporters a challenge in state court is coming but declined to provide a specific timeline. The new law takes effect January 1. “We firmly believe that this voter ID law is not consistent with the Arkansas constitution,” Dickson says. “The Arkansas constitution has greater protections for voters than almost any other state in the nation and we take that seriously.”
The Arkansas Board of Election Commission approved rules Wednesday related to the new photo voter ID law that takes effect in January. Beginning in 2014, the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office will issue photo identification to any voter that does not already have one. Supporters of the legislation say it will cut down on election fraud. Legislators opposed during the 2013 session argued the new law could have the effect of curbing the votes of the elderly and minorities.
Bolstering the election’s division staff and considering the privatization of the State Capitol Police force are among recommendations in a report released Tuesday on making the secretary of state’s office more efficient. The 26-page report concluded an eight-month review of the secretary of state’s office by a 10-member committee chaired by former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Curtis Coleman. First-term GOP Secretary of State Mark Martin requested the report. “The committee was taking an almost a-political, almost antiseptic, business-oriented look at the structure,” Coleman said Tuesday. “The committee was looking for what … will help make the secretary of state’s function fundamentally more efficient. How can people get better government for less money?”