Protecting the integrity of Arkansas elections
D uring the 2023 regular session, which adjourned on May 1, the legislature enacted a list of new laws to protect the integrity of elections.
■ ■ Act 352 prohibits election officials at the local or state level from accepting any funds, grants or gifts from any entity other than the governing body. Its intent is to prevent Facebook, Twitter and other private entities from paying for election-related expenses.
■ ■ Act 305 eliminates write-in candidacies.
■ ■ Act 353 prohibits counties from accepting absentee ballots in a drop box.
■ ■ Act 236 increases the number of signatures needed to place a citizens’ initiative on the ballot. It would increase the number of counties where sponsors would have to gather signatures from at least 15 to at least 50. Canvassers would have to collect at least half the number of designated electors in the county.
■ ■ Act 620 requires the state Board of Election Commissioners to conduct more frequent reviews of electionrelated documents and results.
It creates an Election Integrity Unit within the Attorney General’s office.
Counties would get reviewed when chosen by random or when chosen by two-thirds of the Board. Also, the legislature’s Joint Performance Review Committee could designate which counties are to be reviewed.
■ ■ Act 544 also creates an Election Integrity Unit with the Attorney General’s Office.
■ ■ Act 194 authorizes the state Attorney General to review ballot titles and popular names of proposed amendments and initiatives. For years the AG reviewed ballot titles, but in 2019 the legislature transferred that authority to the Board of Election Commissioners.
■ ■ Act 766 makes it a crime to destroy signatures gathered on petitions to place an issue on the ballot.
The bill was prompted by incidents that occurred when casino interests paid canvassers to gather signatures. Competing interests reportedly offered money, or harassed, to get them to stop collecting signatures or to erase the signatures they had already collected.
■ ■ Act 300 schedules all special elections on the same day as ordinary elections, i.e., the May primary or the November general election date, except in years of a presidential election when the primary is in March.
■ ■ Act 350 requires counties that choose to use paper ballots to use ballots that are compatible with machines used by the Secretary of State to count them. If counties do not use those ballots, they must pay for the expenses of the election themselves.
According to the emergency clause, the intent of Act 350 is to protect the integrity of elections that rely on paper ballots.
■ ■ Act 462 sets petition requirements for new political parties. They must submit at least 10,000 signatures of registered voters. Previously, the threshold was three percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent election for governor.
The legislature passed Act 714 to further crack down on drag racing. It grants police officers the discretion to impound motor vehicles that have been operated in a drag race, if the violation is a second offense. Recovering the vehicle would come at the owner’s expense.
Sen. Reginald Murdock