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Local & Regional News

Arkansas ranks low in report for how it conducts elections

Election Voters Voting File photo of people voting at West Side Baptist Church in Little Rock on Nov. 6, 2018.
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
A voter in Little Rock talks with poll workers before casting a ballot on Nov. 6, 2018.

Arkansas ranks low in a new report comparing election integrity in different states in the U.S. The Democracy Initiative Education Fund published the report “Storming State Capitols,” on Wednesday looking at ten factors contributing to election fairness. Out of 51 states, Arkansas ranked second to last in the way it conducts elections, with only Mississippi ranked lower.

The Democracy Initiative Education Fund is a consortium of 75 civil rights, environmental, labor and civic organizations. The report based the conclusions on public data, political scientists, state laws and problems reported by voters.

Dianna Philip, chief of staff of the Democracy Initiative Education Fund, said in an interview that she wanted to prepare the report as quickly as possible in an effort to help people better understand voting issues ahead of this year’s elections.

Arkansas was ranked last out of all states in voter ID laws. The report describes the state’s voter ID laws as “strict.” Unlike 31 other states, Arkansas is not a member of Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit that says it aims to improve the accuracy of voter rolls. The report says a “moderate” number of Arkansas voters have reported being missing from voting rolls.

The report also examined voter registration. Arkansas closes registration 30 days before election day, a policy Philip calls “stern.” Other states have deployed automated, same day and online voter registration, while Arkansas is missing all three. Philip said this policy is the first one she would change.

Another factor in Arkansas’ low ranking is absentee voting. The state requires voters to have an excuse to vote absentee. A state law was passed in 2021 which makes absentee voting more challenging.

According to the report, Arkansas had a high number of absentee ballots rejected in 2020. Although the state has a statewide ballot tracking program, there is no law mandating election officials use that system. In some states, such as California, poll workers will contact voters if there is a problem with an absentee ballot. Arkansas does not have a comparable program.

Arkansas was ranked 46 in logistical barriers to voting. The report says it does not have accessible voting machines for people with disabilities or curbside voting. When it came to the number of poll workers for Arkansas ranked low at 44.

One area where Arkansas fared better is voter intimidation. The state has laws preventing criminalizing hindering voters at polling sites.