NBC News reported today that major U.S. law firms were joining hands to fight Republican vote suppression efforts in the states.
They will join a corporate pushback to laws passed after the Republican loss of the Senate and White House in 2020.
Arkansas has been no exception, though it hasn’t drawn the same attention for a roster of bills intended to make it much harder to cast an absentee ballot, to reduce early voting and to place in Republican hands the means to take over local election operations they don’t like (think Pulaski and Jefferson counties, both Democratic strongholds.) They’re additionally hoping to make it all but impossible to put proposed laws and constitutional amendments on the ballot with draconian rules on canvassing.
So I asked on Twitter this morning if any Arkansas lawyers were interested in joining this effort. I got a positive hand signal from Tom Mars, the former State Police director. And also this from an announced Democratic candidate for attorney general, Little Rock lawyer Jason Davis. He’s interesting because he was once a Republican appointee to the Pulaski County Election Commission and has been a critic of the new Republican leadership. Laws proposed by Pulaski Republicans would wrest control of the election staff from the county judge and put it under control of harshly partisan Republican commissioners, with a backup for complaints to the partisan state Board of Election Commissioners.
More information will be coming soon.
— Jason Davis (@JasonDavisAR) April 13, 2021
UPDATE: The vote suppression agenda flooded out of the House today. One bill requires a court action to see election materials before an election (a way, potentially, to see where ballots could have been corrected and counted). Another removes the elected county clerk from the process of establishing vote centers, a means used in many states to shut down neighborhood polls, creating obstacles for poor voters. It also passed the bill preventing anyone from getting within 100 feet of a poll, unless going to vote. The bill would make it illegal for someone to give a bottle of water to someone standing in a long line waiting to vote. Republicans say this could amount to electioneering and people should just bring their water. Rep. Vivian Flowers said the legislation was just another barrier to voting.
“Some people go to their polling place and have no idea they’ll encounter a line to vote that expands around the courthouse, but they’re there.” It could be her mother, she said, using a walker and facing hours in line. “It would be a struggle. Why in the world would we create legislation barring a volunteer without any campaign information or any electioneering … to provide water or sandwiches? Where does it stop? That is not electioneering, not within 5 feet, not within 100 feet.”
Rep. Karilyn Brown, a sponsor, said the bill was not hateful, just a way to prevent people from “hanging around” the door to a poll. The suppression bill passed, of course, with 74 votes.
The Senate was busy, too, approving more barriers to absentee voting and expanding legislative review over election complaints — as if the existing Republican-controlled process won’t be enough to achieve partisan aims desired.