Two bills concerning voting and election security were filed on Thursday in the Arkansas state legislature.
Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) filed House Bill 1803 (HB1803), which would establish the Arkansas Balloting Integrity Act and amend the complaint process for election law violations.
This legislation would amend existing Arkansas Code 7-4-120, clarifying the complaint process for alleged election law violations. With this legislation, individuals would be able to file complaints with the State Board of Election Commissioners “no earlier than the date established by law for the delivery or mailing of absentee ballots to a voter” and no later than 30 days after the certification of a an election. This is a change from the previous timeframe of within 30 days.
Violations can relate to voter registration, requests for absentee ballots, delivery of absentee ballots, casting of ballots, ballot tabulation, certification of election results, administration of an election, election processes or the conduct of an election.
A complaint must describe the alleged violation, providing an “approximate date” that a violation or incident occurred, provide the location, and the complaint may recommend a “desired resolution to the complaint.”
Sen. Kirk Hammer (R-Benton) also filed an election-related bill later on Thursday, which is numbered Senate Bill 583 (SB583). This bill would establish a voter fraud hotline and enable the Arkansas Attorney General to investigate allegations of voter fraud.
Hammer’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Lowery, would require the state Attorney General to “establish and publish procedures to receive complaints concerning voter fraud.” One of the mechanisms proposed is a toll-free hotline, as well as procedures for receiving complaints through mail, email or fax.
The state Attorney General would be required to maintain and report statewide statistics on voter fraud complaints, providing a report to the Arkansas Legislative Council and the State Board of Election Commissioners by October 1.
Once an election violation complaint has been received, the Attorney General’s office would forward the complaint to the State Board of Election Commisioners for preliminary investigation and then investigate the allegation if the board returns a complaint for investigation. The bill would allow the Attorney General to employ an attorney in the Attorney General’s office as a special prosecutor to investigate alleged voter fraud and prosecute it if the prosecutor “determines charges should be filed.”
The Attorney General is also required to designate an Arkansas prosecuting attorney to investigate any voter fraud complaints made against the Attorney General or his/her office. The State Board of Election Commissioners would refer the complaint to that designee if any complaints are made.
Lowery’s bill also outlines the responsibilities of local election commission boards in regards to managing budgets. The bill specifies that local counties will be responsible for all expenses of runoff elections, as well as general elections, for presidential, congressional, state, district, county, township or municipal offices that are held in their county.
The bill also states that county boards of election commissioners will be responsible for determining the expenses necessary to conduct a “free equal and lawful election” in their area. This will entail preparing an election budget estimate for all anticipated elections for a given fiscal year and providing that budget to the local county judge, the county judge’s comptroller or budget director or any other individual designated by the county judge. The budget will consist of all salaries and expenses for full-time election employees, additional or part-time employees, equipment, supplies, publication costs, maintenance, utilities, insurance, taxes and other direct and indirect expenses.
Election commission boards, under this bill, would be allowed to accept in-kind support and resources from other county departments and agencies if necessary.