Arkansas AG Backs Several New Election Reforms

Mar 7, 2013

From left to right: Sen. Keith Ingram, AG Dustin McDaniel and Rep. Fred Love speak speak to the press about their package of election reform legislation.
Credit Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is putting his support behind legislation that he says will reduce fraud in the state’s ballot initiative process.

McDaniel and Sen. Keith Ingram, a Democrat from West Memphis, told reporters at the Capitol Thursday that proposed legislation would stiffen penalties for knowingly collecting and submitting fraudulent signatures within the state’s ballot initiative process.

McDaniel referred to last year’s election is a prime example that the process needs reform.

“We know that there is a severe problem when 30 percent of the names on a given petition belong to people who are not registered to vote,” McDaniel said.

He said some ballot measures had over 100 duplicate signatures.

The bill, SB 821, would make it a felony to sign someone else’s name to a petition while gathering signatures in order to put a measure on the ballot, gather a signature from someone while knowing they don’t qualify to sign or to pay for a signature.

The bill also would require paid signature gatherers to register with the Secretary of State’s Office and makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to act as a canvasser.

One bill, SB 343, McDaniel and Ingram said, would increase checks on absentee ballots.

Ingram, a Democrat from West Memphis, said the bills are in response to recent absentee voter fraud as well as fraudulent signature gathering incidents leading up to last year’s election.

“This cuts across party lines,” Ingram said. “I think we recognize that there is a problem and I think that we are making a very bold statement in trying to fix it.”

Though he said these bills would be improvements, McDaniel said the state’s elections are currently sound.

Representative Fred Love, a Democrat from Little Rock, was also on hand to promote his bill, HB 1553, which would require criminal background checks for all candidates for public office.