Secretary Of State To Respond To FOIA On Flagged Voters By Friday, Says Democratic Party

Aug 10, 2016

Credit Sarah-Koditschek / KUAR

The Democratic Party of Arkansas says the Secretary of State’s office has promised to turn over documents related to 7,730 voters it recommended county clerks remove from voting rolls.

Party legal counsel Chris Burks says Mark Martin’s office did not respond within the required three days to a Freedom of Information Act Request for information.

He says the documents could show why Martin's office requested outdated voter rolls from the state's Crime Information center and distributed them to county clerks.  

“Why are they requesting all of these broad lists going back to the '70's? Why didn't they just request the updated list because the voter file was already up to date," asked Burks. "What was their purpose and intent for updating that?"

Burks says the result has been the disenfranchisement of an unknown number of eligible, mostly black voters. He says the Democratic Party may sue the Secretary of State if it doesn’t receive the documents as promised by Friday.

University of Arkansas Bowen School of Law Professor Robert Steinbuch says if Martin does not release the documents, a lawsuit would be the way to solicit a legal justification for withholding them. 

"The next step would be for the requester to sue and then in that instance is when the state agency is mandated to respond, and in doing so, will tell you what exemption they are claiming,” says Steinbuch.

The rolls were updated in June. They flagged the 7,730 voters as ineligible to vote. Some of those individuals are incorrectly labeled as felons, while others have had their voting rights restored. It is now up to county clerks to resolve those details. 

The Secretary of State's office has not responded to a request for comment.