How can Secretary of State Mark Martin influence elections? By making it harder for people to vote, that’s how.
From the Pulaski County Election Commission comes news of how the secretary of state’s office has programmed its software of the state’s registered voter file to require that a photo ID be shown by voters who’ve moved from one county to another. That is NOT required for voters who, among others, voted in the last election or produced valid ID when they registered, says Chris Burks, a lawyer and member of the Pulaski County Election Commission.
The secretary of state’s office apparently doesn’t want to change ITS procedures, notwithstanding law or recent Supreme Court ruling on the voter ID law.
Chris Burks of the Pulaski County Election Commission summarizes:
At issue is that the voter file maintained by the Secretary of State’s office has tagged voters who transferred their existing registration to a new Arkansas county as needing to show ID, when the law says they do not. The SOS office apparently says the software provider has always done it this way, but in my opinion it is more neglect from people who don’t care enough about voting protections. If the SOS office was really focused on ensuring free and fair elections, they would have caught this error that will potentially force thousands to show ID or vote a provisional. I know we have a good plan to catch that error here in Pulaski County and recommend that voters whose votes are caught in this situation be counted, but I’m not sure there is widespread knowledge of the issue yet.
A letter from Pulaski County says some 3,000 voters could be affected by this in Pulaski County alone.
Voters faced with poorly informed election commissions have only two alternatives if faced with this application of the law outside Pulaski County — show an ID or cast a provisional ballot and take steps to be sure it is eventually counted, a big hassle. The letter from Pulaski County sets out a procedure by which it will either override the required voter ID direction at the poll if other criteria are met or, later, check the full criteria on ballots cast provisionally. It would not have to happen this way if the secretary of state would make a one-step change on its voter file software.
I’m seeking a response from Martin’s office on whether this requirement is going to stay in effect election day and if they had a legal opinion validating this procedure.
UPDATE: An angry Mark Myers, who worked in the Martin campaign four years ago and now has a job on Martin’s staff, says this procedure has been followed for years, including by Martin’s predecessors. Years of illegal practice doesn’t legalize a practice, of course.
Myers has yet to cite a legal justification for the position, however. It adds an obstacle to voting, something the Arkansas Supreme Court has said the Constitution prohibits. Myers offers the excuse that requiring the ID protects voters from being illegally switched. He could just as easily offer this as an excuse for continuing to require ID of all voters, contrary to the Supreme Court ruling . It is an excuse, not a legal argument. It has been rejected by the Supreme Court. Myers’ primary defense is that Burks is motivated by partisan concerns. I’d say the concern is that people legitimately registered to vote might not have their votes counted because of a “tradition” of the secretary of state, as opposed to what the law requires. Martin can defend the practice as a continuation of a long-standing practice, but he has yet to defend continuing to do so when challenged.
ALSO: Problems continue around the state with getting used to the Supreme Court order on ID. A Pope County voter recounted that he was allowed to vote Saturday at the county election commissioni n Russellvile without ID, but a notation was put on his record in red ink that he had not produced an ID. When he inquired, he said he was told that he could have problem down the line if he failed to produce an ID at three elections. I asked Holly Dickson, the ACLU’s lawyer about this. Her response:
There is no three strikes and we might get you rule.