Surprise. On partisan lines, the Washington County Election Commission refused a request to open an early voting center on the University of Arkansas campus to facilitate early voting by the thousands of Washington County voters who pass through the campus every day.
Voting against the voting center were the two Republican members — Ackerman and Oelschlaeger. The Democratic member, Deitchler, voted for the voting center.
Observers said the Commission seemed to have its mind made up before hearing from students supporting the voting center (they were given five minutes) and said they wouldn’t consider petitions circulated in support.
Billy Fleming, a former student government president, watched the meeting and said by Twitter that the Commission claimed “performance metrics” didn’t justify an early voting center on campus.
The decision was in keeping with Republican strategy nationwide to suppress votes of those perceived as potentially Democratic leaning, as college students are. Republicans have fought, generally, expanded early voting and streamlined voting measures. They’ve pushed for voter ID despite an absence of evidence of voter impersonation. GOP Secretary of State Mark Martin recently engineered a badly flawed move to strike thousands from the voter rolls and make those improperly removed prove they should be put back on. The Washington County Commission’s vote is but another chorus of the same song.
Rep. Greg Leding, a Fayetteville Democrat, said after that the commission had “made a political decision, not a decision in the interest of democracy.” He noted a former Republican leigslator had joined in supporting the plan.