I reported Monday that Secretary of State Mark Martin had improperly programmed state voter registration system files to require voters to produce an ID if they had moved to a different county.
Three days later, apart from defending this as longstanding practice, the secretary of state’s office has not responded to my questions about the legal justification for this directive. Nor has it responded to a letter from the ACLU objecting to the practice and asking that the secretary of state insure that people improperly made to file a provisional ballot because of this would have their votes counted.
Mark “Not the race car driver” Martin, who got the biggest vote in Arkansas despite his surliness, inaccessbility, frequent absence from office and frequent office miscues, apparently thinks he’s too popular to explain his screwups.
Happily, there are some election officials who take their duties more seriously.
The issue was raised by Chris Burks, a Pulaski County election commissioner. That commission will be making sure no voter is improperly denied the ballot. The election was mostly a runaway, but, as always, there are a few close races so every vote really does count.
This report from Bryan Poe, who directs the commission staff, on questions I’d posed about provisional ballots in Pulaski County and how they’ll be handled:
There are 483 provisional ballots in Pulaski County. As to your second question, the provisional ballots are being reviewed by the Clerk’s office as I write this. If they identify any individuals that were improperly flagged due to the error in the Voter Registration system, their provisional ballots will be counted. Currently, there is only one big race that I can think of that might be affected by the provisional ballots: JP 11, which was decided by (ironically) 11 votes. That district also has 14 outstanding overseas ballots, as well, so it is very much up in the air.
It would be nice of Mark “Not the race car driver” Martin would correct this before the next election. But, after four years in office, he hasn’t managed to show any leadership in updating Arkansas vote machines and he failed miserably in informing the public about the voter ID before it was struck down or what election officails should do after it was struck down.
I spoke today also with Garland County election commissioners, whose ongoing count of absentee ballots is being closely watched because of a hot race for Hot Springs mayor. Controversial Mayor Ruth Carney, who’s a handful of votes ahead, has tried to declare the race over, but it isn’t. Somewhere between 100 and 200 additional absentee votes were found to be uncounted, a discovery that has everyone talking.
Once absentees are done, the Garland commission must deal with provisional ballots. Commissioner G. Alan Clark said he thought the county had only about 20 provisional ballots. He worked at an early polling location and it required only six provisional ballots. None was for someone flagged as MUST SHOW ID, he said. When that flag appears, officials don’t know if it’s because the voter is a first-time voter, who properly must produce one of several types of acceptable additional IDs, or if they were flagged because of the secretary of state’s erroneous direction to apply it to people who’ve moved.
All voters must identify themselves as to name, birth date and address, but they don’t have to produce a photo ID to do so. Provisional ballots were required a few times where Clark worked because a voter was on record as having requested an absentee ballot. Until the absentees are tallied, there’s no way to know at the polls if an in-person voter has already voted absentee or not, so a provisional ballot is used.
GARLAND COUNTY UPDATE: Election commissioner Dennis Bosch explains the “found” absentee ballot issue. The commission attempted to finish Hot Springs precincts yesterday, but in reconciliation they realized they hadn’t counted all the relevant absentees. More were with others in the vault where the commission keeps uncounted ballots. They retried them today and counted them and the votes grew Carney’s lead by 13 or so. But there were no missing ballots that were “found,” he said. “They were in the vault, right where they should have been.”