On March 20, through Executive Order 20-08 (https://t.co/mIIizOpmV6), Governor Hutchinson allowed “no-excuse” absentee voting for the primary runoff elections that took place on March 31. (1/8)
— Greg Leding (@GregLeding) May 21, 2020
State Sen. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) has assembled a useful thread of Tweets on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s seeming evolution on no-excuse absentee voting.
Particularly useful are his clips of the occasions on which the governor has spoken of his support for “no-excuse absentee voting,” He also authorized it by emergency decree in runoff elections for the March primary. For example, the photo is clipped from a video of an April town hall:
But yesterday, events took a turn. When using the phrase “no-excuse absentee voting” in a White House meeting Wednesday with Donald Trump — a foe of mailing voting except for himself — Hutchinson said Thursday that he misspoke. He was talking about early voting when he talked of absentee voting, he said.
As I noted yesterday and Leding noted as well, early voting is not absentee voting. You line up at a poll and vote. No excuse is required to vote early. By supporting early voting, Hutchinson supports nothing more than existing law. It does little to provide a safer means for people to vote in November should coronavirus still stalk the land.
Did Hutchinson really mean early voting in his earlier professions of support for no-excuse absentee voting? Did he really forget he’d authorized no-excuse absentee voting in March, as he indicated Thursday? Or is he now merely saying what Donald Trump wants to hear?
Hutchinson is getting touchy about the repeated questions.
But they need to be asked until the right answer is given. Time is running short for state and county officials to prepare for an increase in mail no-excuse “absentee” voting. An increase can be expected even if Hutchinson resists declaring no-excuse absentee with means such as postage-paid return envelopes to facilitate it.
I and others believe a no-excuse absentee is effectively already an option under existing law. You need only check “unavoidable absence” as a reason to obtain an absentee ballot. No specific reason needs to be given. Should anyone ask — and legally no election official has the power to do so — I’d be happy to say I expect to be unavoidably absent from the poll so as to avoid exposure of my 70-year-old irregular heartbeat to the risk of a deadly infection.