I’ve never been arrested for getting into “good trouble,” but I will go to GA in 2022 and give water to voters waiting in line, get arrested, post bond and become a repeat offender. I hope I am not alone. Indefensible injustice shall not stand. https://t.co/hUpSpb3gbc
— Dustin McDaniel (@Dustin_McDaniel) March 27, 2021
Georgia is getting all the love from Republicans for its raft of new vote suppression laws.
Arkansas is at work catching up.
The governor has already signed legislation making it easier to disqualify absentee votes (ID required and no cure allowed if you forget to stick it in the envelope). But the full agenda of vote suppression legislation is still on tap.
For example, you see where former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has vowed to go to Georgia to defy a law to prohibit passing out water to people waiting in Georgia voting lines, made unduly long by steps taken to suppress votes in minority neighborhoods.
He need not go to Georgia to cause good trouble if pending Arkansas legislation passes.
SB 486 would make it a crime to get within 100 feet of a polling place on election day except to enter or leave the building.
Electioneering is already prohibited within 100 feet of the building. This law would — yes — make it a crime to enter that area for any purpose, including to provide a bottle of water for someone standing in line to vote.
Loriee Evans of Indivisible Arkansas called this bill to my attention, along with SB 485, which is on a committee agenda Tuesday. SB 482 would prohibit early voting on the Monday before an election and also shorten voting hours the Saturday before an election. This will increase lines election day, of course. Evans’ news release said:
“The bill is completely unnecessary, because every election commission can set its own days and hours for off-site early voting, and many of ours close on the second Friday,” said Benton County Clerk Betsy Harrell. “The only ones required to be open, by law, are those in the County Clerk’s offices. Washington County reduces their locations to the County Clerk’s office only on the last Monday, freeing up the commission staff to do whatever preparations are left to do before Election Day. Any county’s Election Commission has the option to do the same, (including whomever proposed this bill to their representative) which is preferable to angering thousands of voters who have come to expect the availability of voting the day before the election.”
And there’s much more on the Republican vote suppression slate.
SB 487 would allow Republican-controlled county election commissions to set up voting centers that could mean the closure of neighborhood polling places more accessible to those with limited means. It’s a proven way to harm minority neighborhoods.
SB 488 would create an exception to the examination of certain vote records. It’s in shell form, but you have to question the motive. Might it deter those who, as in the last election, examined rejected absentee ballots in Pulaski County and notified the voters of an opportunity to correct a shortcoming?
SB 498 would change the law about reporting voting complaints to bypass county clerks and prosecuting attorneys and take them straight to the Republican-controlled state election commission.
SB 452 strips city governments of the power to draw wards and gives the power to Republican-controlled county election commissions. Little Rock is the obvious target of this from Sen. Mark Johnson.
SB 556, another one by Johnson and vote-suppression champion Rep. Mark Lowery (he of the ID law), would allow the Republican-controlled state Election Commission to strip election oversight from county clerks and judges. Again, Democratic Pulaski County is the chief target.
SB 557 would allow the removal of election employees from the control of county judges and put them under Republican-controlled county election commissions. Think Pulaski, again.
HB 1715 would create new barriers to absentee voting. Clerks couldn’t distribute them unless requested. Those who gather absentee ballots, say from nursing homes, would be severely restricted in the number they could submit.
No Republican, so far as I can tell, has submitted a bill to make permanent no-excuse absentee voting, allowed under pandemic directives and still subject of a federal lawsuit. Nor have they submitted a bill to allow a correction process for a ballot that, for example, has a single digit wrong on a ZIP code. Some Democratic bills are pending to streamline the voting process and encourage more votes, but you can pre-file those in the trash bin.
There are probably other suppression measures in the hopper.
Back to Loriee Evans’ news release:
“Rather than pass measures to make it harder for Arkansans to vote, Indivisible urges a more effective way to strengthen voter confidence. Legislators should publicly state the truth about our elections in no uncertain terms: there is almost NO voter fraud in Arkansas.”
Statewide, the ACLU of Arkansas has worked on this issue since at least 2013, making public records requests to the Administrative Office of the Courts across Arkansas. ACLU has never found any evidence, for example, that any voters voting without ID were anything other than lawfully registered, law-abiding citizens.
Republicans, led by the former sociopath-in-chief, are too busy creating false narratives about election fraud to focus on helping people to vote. They know what happens when more people vote. Democrats sometimes win.
So Georgia, hold Arkansas’s beer. We’re coming at you.