The Arkansas Democratic Party issued a statement today indicating that Secretary of State Mark Martin has belatedly decided to obey the state Freedom of Information Act and supply information requested about his gross mishandling of information on criminal records that could have led to improper purging of thousands from voter rolls.
The Democratic Party statement from party legal counsel Chris Burks:
“After speaking with officials from the office of the Arkansas Attorney General, I am confident that Secretary of State Mark Martin will comply with the FOIA request I made on behalf of the Democratic Party of Arkansas on August 3, 2016. The Democratic Party of Arkansas will make a final determination on filing suit against the Secretary of State once we review whether they make all documents public on Friday. According to the AG’s office, the Party will receive the requested documents from the office of the Sectary of State by close of business on Friday, August 12, 2016. Even if we receive all documents by Friday, the law was still broken and it is important that all elected officials be held accountable to following the law.”
From Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Vincent Insalaco:
“Even Arkansas’s Republican Attorney General can see that Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin violated the law by not immediately processing the FOIA request. The Democratic Party of Arkansas believes every eligible Arkansans should able to cast a vote. We remain ever vigilant, ready to fight for Arkansans right to vote. This episode should remind all Arkansans that elections have consequences.”
My comment: The office and its publicly paid press spokesman, Chris Powell, has refused to respond to my request for information about this issue. The Arkansas Times last week
made a formal FOI request asked for information about the attempted voter purge and got no response from the office, though the office apparently DID provide to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the number of names — more than 7,000 — sent to county clerks for striking off voter rolls. The office also was mute on a formal FOI request submitted Monday. As we’ve reported, it was a flawed list, nearly worthless for determining voter eligibility. The secretary of state’s office has refused to provide even a response to our FOI request to supply what they gave the D-G.
Today, under threat of lawsuit from Times editor Lindsey Millar, Powell finally responded to a Times request for information by saying it was being reviewed. There are two clown cars at the Capitol – in both the treasurer’s and secretary of state’s officers. The FOI law can’t be clearer. When requests for information are made, they MUST be acknowledged. Information MUST be supplied unless it is in active use (a very narrow definition) or otherwise exempt. Martin’s office and his emissary Powell stonewalled legitimate requests. It was willful. I happen to think it was not only a civil but a criminal violation of the law. They stand today in violation of our request for information. If they finally comply, it is mostly meaningless in terms of curing the law violations.
Martin, like many others, thinks he’s above the law and also that he may use economic might — he has unlimited taxpayer-provided legal help while others must front legal expenses — to stymie requests for information.
We are talking here about a sacred right — to vote — that Mark Martin was ready to deny for thousands, either through gross incompetence or malicious intent. Either way, it is cause to be happy he may not seek re-election thats to term limits.