Officials Attempt To Verify Voting Status Of Thousands Marked As Felons

Jul 27, 2016

File photo of people voting in Little Rock.
Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

County clerks around Arkansas are working to determine exactly how many registered voters may have been incorrectly flagged as felons after the state Secretary of State’s office updated a computerized record-keeping system.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane says about half of nearly 2,000 registered voters in the county who were recently flagged under the new system either should be allowed to vote or have an indeterminate status. The number will vary by county, he says, and each county may have to take a different approach to correct the problem.

“Some [county clerks] will be more effective than others. Some will have better records than others on what has been done with the people in their county before. Some will choose simply to send a letter to everyone on their list and say you’ve been identified as a felon and if you’re not, you’ve got to find the information to prove that you’re not,” he says.

While Pulaski County has the resources to check out potential problems, not all county clerks in the state may be so well equipped, Crane says.

“It puts a very, very large burden on the clerks and it’s going to put a burden, probably, on a number of people across the state who will be required to jump through hoops to be able to vote in November.”

Crane says he requested that the Secretary of State’s office remove the new Pulaski County felony tags as his staff sorts out who does and doesn’t belong on the list. He says the Secretary of State’s office is honoring similar requests on a county-by-county basis.

Crane also says there have been discussions of a potential lawsuit to force a return to the old computer record system.

Persons who have been convicted of a felony, and who have not completed probation or parole or paid their fines and fees are prohibited from voting by state law. Those who’ve had previous felony convictions, but who have paid all court-ordered fees or fines and have completed their probation or parole can have their voting rights restored.

A provision of Amendment 51 of the Arkansas Constitution instructs the Secretary of State to use records kept in a computerized list by the Arkansas Crime Information Center in order to determine felony status.

A spokesman for the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.