Democratic Leader Keith Ingram Presses Arkansas Election Authorities To Do Better

Jun 26, 2014

State Senate Majority Leader Keith Ingram (D-W. Memphis)

State Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram pressured election officials Thursday to resolve an imbalance in how counties performed in the first statewide test of 2013’s voter ID. The Democrat from West Memphis said he wants to see a more robust effort to coordinate best practices between counties but has so far mostly seen inaction.

“With 1,000 Arkansas voters that were disenfranchised in the primary and the possibility of up to 5,000 being disenfranchised that is troubling to me and I would think it would be troubling to the Secretary of State’s office,” said Ingram.

Responding to Ingram during meeting of the Joint Performance Review Committee, the Chief Deputy of the Secretary of State’s office Doug Matayo said each county has been notified of new ID rules and part of a $150,000 budget was used for outreach. Matayo also suggested the office is limited in implementing changes at the county level.

Ingram was visibly less than satisfied with answers from Matayo and the Director of the State Board of Election Commissioners Justin Clay.

“Somebody needs to take responsibility, whether it’s the Secretary of State’s office or an association of counties, to look at the best practices of who got it right and had low percentages to try to work with the counties that had tremendous…90 percent of 85 percent of failures,” said Ingram.

Republican election commissioner Stu Soffer of Jefferson County praised the Secretary of State’s staff but referred to the office as a “paper tiger” in its authority to adequately address discounted ballots and issues of polling site closures in Sebastian County brought up by Representative Charlotte Douglas (R-Alma).

Legislators also mulled the idea of holding another committee hearing to further question state election bodies and county commissioners.