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Arkansas Board bans electronic signatures on voter registration forms



Little Rock, Arkansas – Regarding the legality of using electronic signatures on voter registration forms in Arkansas, there is a great deal of uncertainty.

Get Loud Arkansas, a nonprofit organization led by former state senator Joyce Elliott, criticized the State Board of Election Commissioners for temporarily prohibiting electronic signatures on voter registration application forms on Tuesday, except those submitted through the Department of motor vehicles.

The Board claims that to maintain uniformity across the state and to provide clarification on the current voter registration statute, Amendment 51, it approved an emergency rule and a declaratory order.

While the majority of counties have not accepted electronic signatures, others, including Pulaski County, have.

“The declaratory order is a describer of the law and then the rule is drawing a line in the sand, so to speak,” Director of the State Board of Election Commissioners, Chris Madison said. “The proposal is to address a conflict that’s occurred—we have some county clerks that are accepting electronically signed voter registrations, and you have other county clerks that are not. What we are trying to do is create uniformity throughout the state so that all clerks are accepting the same thing, so that applicants are filling out the paperwork the same, so that everybody’s being treated the same.”

Become Loud The emergency regulation, according to Arkansas, a nonprofit that assists new voters in registering and up until now offered an online voter registration form that permitted electronic signatures, amounts to voter suppression.

“They had this emergency meeting today for an emergency rule,” said former State Senator and Get Loud Arkansas founder Joyce Elliott. “There is one emergency in this state right now as far as I’m concerned when it comes to this and the emergency we have is we’ve got to stop people from implementing their well thought out voter suppression, because that’s what this is.”

Elliott and her group claim they have received conflicting information from the Secretary of State’s office on the legitimacy of signatures obtained through electronic voter registration. They quote a recent ruling by the Attorney General stating that electronic signatures are legally recognized in Arkansas.

“If you don’t have a printer to be able to print off your form yourself, you have to go and get a paper form, fill it all in by hand,” Get Loud Arkansas Deputy Director Kristin Foster said. “A form is not intuitive, it’s easy to miss certain things that are required. So yeah, this definitely will have a chilling effect on voter registration. It has made it much easier for people, especially people who live in rural areas and maybe can’t get into the county clerk’s office, to get a form.”

There is great debate about how to interpret Arkansas’ voter registration statute, but one thing is certain: using designated “registration agencies” like the Department of motor vehicles to obtain an electronic signature is permitted.

“Well, Amendment 51 says those are the agencies that can do that. It doesn’t say that others can do that,” Madison said. “And the point of it is to ensure that the voters themselves are the ones that are signing this. And quite frankly, you can speculate as to what all the reasons for it are—that’s a legislative issue—but functionally, what we want is a voter in one county that applies to be a voter to do the same thing a voter in another county does. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The emergency regulation might take effect as early as next week after it is most likely filed to the Bureau of Legislative Research tomorrow.

Get Loud Arkansas has removed its online voter registration application ahead of the emergency rule’s implementation.



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