SEN. MARK JOHNSON (file photo) Brian Chilson

The Senate today approved key parts of the Republican Party’s vote suppression/Pulaski County punishment agenda.

One bill. SB 498, puts in the hands of the Republican-controlled state board of election commissioners the investigation of election complaints, removing authority in the law for county clerks and prosecutors to review election problems.


A bigger power grab is SB 557 to give control of the employment of election workers to the Republican-controlled county election commissioners. County clerks handle these duties in many counties. Some larger counties have staff. In Pulaski County, the staff answers to the Democratic county judge. The Republican election commission majority in Pulaski County raised many complaints about the Pulaski staff, growing out of a personality dispute, and hungers to control the staff. This bill will allow them to do so with their two votes on the three-member commission.

Sen. Mark Johnson, a Pulaski County Republican who’s been in the thick of trying to wrest control of Pulaski County government from Democrats, sponsored both bills. He cited no specific instances of improper actions that led to this legislation, just “allegations.” He described both these power grabs as just moves for clarity and efficiency. They are partisan in intent, no more or less.


County judges of both parties have resisted takeover maneuvers in other venues. Perhaps there’s hope to defeat this power grab on the House side. Probably not, given the record of this session. Only the tiny Democratic minority raised objections to these bills in the Senate today.

Johnson claimed not to know who appointed the members of the election commission in responding to questions about shifting control from elected officials to an appointed board. I suspect he knows full well that all seven members of the commission but one are appointed by Republicans or are Republican officeholders. The Democratic Party has one appointed member.