The Department of Finance and Administration announced today that it was implementing a change in the procedure followed by already-registered voters when they make changes to their registration, such as an address change, at state motor vehicle offices. This change arises in Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office and it raises some questions.
Here’s the release:
The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) announced today that, as a result of changes made in the Secretary of State Motor Voter system, it will immediately implement a change in the procedure followed when a citizen updates voter information in a State Revenue Office. Voters who are only updating their registration will be required to answer all questions which are currently required for a new voter registration.
The additional questions that will be asked before updating a registration are:
a.) Have you ever voted in a Federal Election in this state?
b.) Are you a citizen of the United States of America and an Arkansas resident?
c.) Will you be eighteen (18) years of age before Election Day?
d.) Are you presently adjudged mentally incompetent by court of competent jurisdiction?
e.) Have you ever been convicted of a felony without your sentence having been discharged or pardoned?
f.) Do you claim the right to vote in another county or state?
This change in procedure is being implemented Effective Friday, May 16, 2014 at the request of the Arkansas Secretary of State. Voter information gathered by DFA in state Revenue Offices is transmitted to the Secretary of State’s Office pursuant to the Secretary of State’s Motor Voter program. That information is then forwarded by the Secretary of State to the appropriate county officials to update registration records.
Walter Anger of DFA said his agency had been told by Martin’s office that a new computer system couldn’t differentiate between new voter registrations and pre-existing registrations, so it wanted even registered voters to have to go through the interview required of new voters.
I’ve asked whether a new registration requirement for existing voters could be done by Mark Martin fiat, or whether a legislative enactment or rule-making is required. DFA says it’s acting only at Martin’s request. I also wonder about the application of Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution, which sets out voter registration requirements. It says, for example:
When a voter is once registered under the provisions of this amendment, it is unnecessary for such voter again to register unless such registration is cancelled or subject to cancellation in a manner provided for by this amendment.
Could you argue that completing the full registration procedure is registering again? Amendment 51 also says a registered voter may change address merely by “updating” it at the motor vehicle office The amendment makes no mention of a registered voter having to go through the full interview again. The amendment gives the legislature the power to change terms of the amendment by a super majority vote. Just thinking out loud, but does this require a previously registered voter to prove — again — that he or she has no disabilities, such as a felony conviction? I’ve asked the secretary of state’s office about this.
UPDATE: Stone dead silence from the secretary of state’s office. Other questions remain. Why new software? From whom? For how much? Why doen’t it work? Why is burden being put on voters and not on the bureaucrats in Martin’s office.
UPDATE II: Now I hear from an office spokesman.
All of the questions asked are questions found on the voter registration application. Section 10 of amendment 51 lays out the transfer and change of status “… any registered voter may cause his or her registration to be transferred to his or her new address or new name by completing and mailing a federal or state mail voter registration application…”. The questions asked are not new. They are located in boxes 8 and 10 on the voter registration form.
Please note what her nifty ellipses cut out of the constitution:
… by updating his address at the Office of Driver Services, any state revenue office, public assistance agency, disabilities agency, or other voter registration agency, by signing a mailed request to the permanent registrar, giving his present address and the address at which he was last registered or his present name and the name under which he was last registered, or by applying in person at the office of the permanent registrar.
This “updating” makes no mention of going through the full list of questions again. Mark Martin’s office simply doesn’t shoot straight. Still awaiting word why the office couldn’t make its software work, rather than burdening legal voters. Maybe it prefers burdening voters to getting value for the money spent.
UPDATE III: The attorney general’s office wasn’t consulted on this change. Of course not.