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Bill Amending Absentee Ballot Processes In Arkansas Passes Legislature

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Arkansas Senate
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A bill that would implement stricter scrutiny of absentee voting applications in Arkansas has received final legislative approval and is heading to the governor's desk.

The Senate, by a vote of 27-8 on Tuesday, passed House Bill 1715. It would change several aspects of absentee voting in the state, including banning county clerks or other designated election officials from distributing absentee ballot applications or ballots to voters who had not requested them. The bill would also require the creation and approval of a uniform voter statement by the State Board of Election Commissioners.

Another part of the legislation would require election officials to verify the signatures of a voter’s absentee ballot application with their voter registration application. If the signatures do not match, an absentee ballot would not be mailed.

Democratic Sen. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock spoke against the bill. While he said he was in favor of some parts of it, such as the uniform voter statement, he objected to the signature match requirement.

"I guarantee with this requirement in place, there are going to be people who submit an absentee ballot application who don’t get their ballot because their signature doesn’t match whatever their signature was when they register to vote," Tucker said. "It’s going to be people who are disabled and elderly by and large who aren’t able to get their ballots and vote."

In closing for the bill before the vote, Republican Sen. Kim Hammer of Benton, spoke on the importance of signature integrity.  

"Our signatures, in my opinion, are as important as our social security numbers because with a stolen signature I can do a lot of things and get my way through a lot of areas. So I think that those that are mindful of the need to protect their signatures are addressed," Hammer said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson to decide whether to sign it into law.

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