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Arkansas PoliticsElectionsRead

Benton Co. Grassroots Group Holds Panel on Election Integrity

During the 2023 Legislative Session in Arkansas, an emphasis was placed on election-related bills, with 20 new laws being enacted. These measures spanned a wide range of issues, from ballot initiatives and referendums to the regulation of absentee ballot drop boxes. Notably, the state also established an Election Integrity Unit. You can explore the details of these legislative changes from the 2023 session here: [Link] 

In a recent Benton County Conservative Grassroots meeting held in October, Matt Crouch from Heritage Action and Colonel Conrad Reynolds representing Arkansas’ Voter Integrity Initiative participated in a panel discussion. 

Heritage Foundation maintains an Election Integrity Scorecard for all U.S. states. Before the 2023 Legislative Session, Arkansas held an impressive 4th place in this ranking. However, it’s crucial to understand that this ranking is relative to other states, and despite Arkansas passing 20 election-related laws, our ranking slipped to 5th place, with a score of 79 out of 100. The primary area that need attention in Election Integrity is the accuracy of the voter registration lists. After the legislative session, Arkansas moved to 5th place in the United States. For more details, you can view the Heritage Election Scorecard [here]

An interesting fact is that the largest party of registered voters in Arkansas is not the Republican or Democrat Party, but the Optional Party. To check your party affiliation, you can visit the Secretary of State’s Voter View [here]

In Arkansas, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is the company responsible for managing the state’s election systems, including hardware, software, and collateral. Reynolds disclosed that ES&S also maintains the servers for voter rolls in Arkansas, with data shared with the Secretary of State’s office through Voter View. Surprisingly, in Arkansas, the state doesn’t own its voter databases. With over 60% of Arkansas voters supporting Republican candidates, the Primary Election often holds significant influence over the election’s outcome. Reynolds highlighted that if any wrongdoing were to occur, it would likely happen during the primary election. It’s important to note that, in Arkansas, election audits typically occur during the General Election, and there has been no audit of a primary election to date. This raises questions about the public’s perception of what an “audit” entails, as these audits are often pre-announced spot checks of select counties. 

Both Crouch and Reynolds emphasized the need for transparent and secure elections that instill confidence in voters. Crouch stressed the importance of cleaning up voter rolls, citizenship verification, and preventing vote harvesting. He also advocated for a verifiable auditing process and maintaining the integrity of voting machines. 

Reynolds supports a “gold standard” approach to Elections of using paper ballots with a clear chain of custody, counted by human hands. He recommended a specialized paper ballot from Authentix with 12 security features, including ultraviolet watermarking. A new law (Act 350) in Arkansas now requires counties to use paper compatible with electronic vote tabulation machines if they choose to transition to paper ballots. Furthermore, counties are responsible for the associated costs of paper, printing, and tabulation devices. 

One pressing concern with Electronic Voting Machines, as highlighted by Reynolds, is the lack of voter verification regarding the barcodes printed on the vote receipts. He drew an interesting analogy to the pricing of products with identical UPC codes at different retailers to underscore the importance of barcode programming. In Arkansas, the tabulators can only read barcodes, not voter choices. Reynolds suggested that electronic voting machines should primarily serve voters with disabilities, the original purpose for their introduction. 

For an improved Election Integrity in Arkansas, Heritage Action has identified several additional steps, including comprehensive voter roll cleanup, validation of addresses, citizenship verification, cross-referencing voter data, and more. Reynolds firmly advocates for a return to paper ballots with advanced security features, hand-counted during the election process. He expressed comfort with tabulated Election Night totals, followed by thorough post-election audits. These steps are integral to maintaining the integrity and security of Arkansas elections, an objective that resonates with a conservative audience. 

If you believe in preserving the integrity of our elections through traditional paper ballots, reach out to your Quorum Court to voice your concerns and support for this secure voting method. 

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