A bill that would have eliminated early voting on the day before an Election Day in Arkansas failed in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday, the final full day of the legislative session.
The chamber ultimately did not pass Senate Bill 485, with 39 representatives voting for it and 43 members voting against it. The bill would have eliminated early voting on the day before either a primary or general election.
The bill failed three times in a Senate committee and one time in a House committee before ultimately advancing through the legislature and being brought up for a vote in the House Tuesday, where if it had passed, would have gone to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Three lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill, framing it as an opportunity to give poll workers a break before an Election Day. One who spoke for it was Rep. Karilyn Brown, R-Sherwood.
"Having been a poll worker, I do know that there’s a tremendous amount of work. They have to tabulate a lot of information, they have to get and make sure all the machines are working correctly, they have to get all of the voting materials out to the voting sites. There’s a lot of work that goes into place to get ready for Election Day," Brown said.
Also speaking for the bill, Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, pushed back against claims that it was a voter suppression effort and insisted it was designed to assist poll workers.
Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, countered that the bill was indeed voter suppression because it would have made it harder for some Arkansans to vote. She also spoke on an example Ladyman gave where only one voter in Prairie County cast a ballot on the Monday before an Election Day.
"It’s unfortunate that that means there may be election workers, poll workers, who are sitting there with nothing to do on the Monday before Election Day. I wish that they weren’t, but if that is the cost for being able to allow more people to vote, that seems fair to me," Clowney said.
Three other lawmakers spoke against the legislation, including Democratic Rep. Jamie Scott of North Little Rock.
"This roadblock will impact hundred of Arkansans, Republicans and Democrats," Scott said. "I’m asking you today, please don’t silence the voices of our communities and people that look like me. I represent a minority-majority district. This is one of the busiest days in my district and I can’t stay silent about what it’s going to do in my community."
Applause from the House could be heard after the vote results were announced. An attempt to clinch the vote, so the bill would not be able to be reconsidered, failed, by a vote of 25-58.
According to official vote tallies from the legislature, no Democrat in either chamber voted for the legislation, while those voting against the bill were bipartisan.