Voter ID Rules for Absentee Ballots Divide Arkansas Election Commissions

Mar 13, 2014

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane

The new Voter ID law continues to be tested in special elections throughout the state and problems with absentee ballots are heading to court. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman has details.

The Pulaski County Election Commission and County Clerk Larry Crane are suing the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners over procedures governing absentee ballots submitted without a copy of an ID.

The law allows in-person voters to cast a provisional ballot and gives them one week to present ID. There is not a similar recourse for absentee voters so the state board passed new rules in late February creating additional time to present ID. Larry Crane said that is not an option.

“The state board doesn’t have authority to manufacture a remedy where the law is clear, and the law is clear that you don’t count those ballots if they don’t have photo or ID appropriately submitted with them. I don’t criticize the state board for wanting to do something but they can’t do what they don’t have the authority to do,” said Crane.

He said the authority rests with the state legislature and in the absence of actions from the Capitol absentee ballots without ID should not be counted. Justin Clay is the director of the state board and agreed the law doesn’t explicitly grant more time for absentee voters but said statutes do give the board authority to create rules “to ensure fair and orderly election procedures.”

“Perhaps there was some ambiguity in the law as it relates to absentee ballots that are returned without the required identification. To the extent that the law is ambiguous our board ultimately decided to err on the side of the voter and that’s the reason they passed the emergency rules that they passed,” said Clay.

Chris Burks, a Pulaski County commissioner, said Judge Tim Fox has been asked for an expedited review and the case may be in court within the next two weeks.