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Arkansas Secretary of State candidates differ on 2020 election fairness

2022-10-18-Secretary_of_State_debate.png
Arkansas PBS
Democratic candidate Anna Beth Gorman and Incumbent Republican Secretary of State John Thurston take part in a debate Tuesday by Arkansas PBS.

The two candidates for Arkansas Secretary of State differ on the fairness of the 2020 Presidential election, although both agreed that Arkansas’ vote was accurate.

When asked about the integrity of the 2020 election outcome, Democratic nominee Anna Beth Gorman who runs the nonprofit The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas said, “Yes, I believe the 2020 election was a free, fair and sound election.”

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State John Thurston answered, “That’s the million-dollar question that everyone’s been asking for the last two years… The short answer is I can positively tell you with certainty ‘I don’t know.’ I can say here in Arkansas, during record turnout, we had the safest and most secure election in the country.”

Thurston explained that elections are conducted on a state-by-state basis and he had no first-hand knowledge or oversight of other states’ elections.

Thurston and Gorman kept their debate civil and spirited.

The two candidates said they would support online voter registration. Gorman, who consistently raised the issue of Arkansas being last in voter registration, said she was “absolutely in favor” of the concept.

“This is low-hanging fruit to overnight change voter participation,” Gorman said.

Thurston said online voter registration would need to be initiated by the state legislature.

“I’m not opposed to online voter registration,” he said. “If done correctly, I think it would be convenient and a good thing.”

When the subject of voting by mail and voter drop boxes was raised, Thurston said he believed that expansion would lead to election fraud. Gorman didn’t respond to Thurston’s charge, but said, “We have to create access to participating in our democracy.”

Another question asked if recent changes by the Arkansas General Assembly in the name of election integrity have made it too hard or too easy to secure elections.

“You have to take ownership of your vote,” Thurston said. “We do want it to be convenient, but hard to cheat. Accuracy is more important than convenience.”

Gorman, again citing Arkansas’ voter statistics, said the new laws will discourage turnout.

“We have made it extremely hard,” she said. “As Secretary of State, I’ll work hard to make sure that all Arkansans are participating in the process.”

The two candidates also discussed business support services offered by the office, capitol security, federalizing elections, and the consolidation of constitutional offices.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.