Group seeks amendment to require paper ballots in Arkansas elections

A ballot committee called Restore Election Integrity Arkansas is proposing an Arkansas constitutional amendment aimed at requiring all elections in Arkansas to be conducted with paper ballots and removing language in the Arkansas Constitution that permits elections to be conducted by voting machines.

Conrad Reynolds of Conway is the Restore Election Integrity Arkansas’ committee’s chief operating officer, according to the committee’s statement of organization filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. John Bailey of Little Rock is the committee’s chairman, Jan Bailey of Little Rock is the committee’s chairwoman and Will Huff of Conway is the committee’s treasurer.

Reynolds, who lost a primary challenge Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill in 2022, said Thursday that the proposed constitutional amendment is a proposal from his Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, a 501(c) (4) non-profit group.

“The 2020 election has no bearing on what we are doing here,” Reynolds said, referring to the 2020 presidential election.

Nearly months ago, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative challenging the legality of Arkansas’ ballot-counting machines. At issue was whether the bar code-based system allows voters “to verify in a private and independent manner the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast” as described in Arkansas Code 7-5-504, which sets the standards for machine operations under the state Election Code.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Fox ruled that the system does provide that verification opportunity as required by law because voters are given printed ballots to cast once they’ve selected their choices from the computer system. The Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative’s attorney has provided notice that the group intends to appeal Fox’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office received the Restore Election Integrity Arkansas’s proposed constitutional amendment with a proposed popular name and ballot title “after hours” on Nov. 9, Griffin spokesman Jeff LeMaster said.

The deadline for Griffin to take action on the proposal’s proposed ballot title and constitutional amendment is the close of business on Nov. 27 as a result of the holidays, LeMaster said.

The attorney general’s options include certifying the popular name and ballot title as submitted, rejecting the entire submission, giving the reasons for the rejection and instructing the sponsor to redesign the measure, or substituting and certifying a more appropriate popular name or ballot title.

Certifying the proposal’s popular name and ballot would clear the way for the Restore Election Integrity Arkansas committee to begin collecting signatures of registered voters in an effort to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the 2024 general election ballot.

Sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment are required to submit 91,704 signatures of registered voters to the secretary of state’s office by July 5, 2024. The total must also include signatures from voters in at least 50 counties in order to qualify the proposal for the 2024 general election ballot, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Restore Election Integrity Arkansas’ proposed constitutional amendment would repeal section 4 of Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 50, which states that, “Voting machines may be used to such extent and under such rules as may be prescribed by the General Assembly.”

The five-page proposal also would amend Section 2 of the Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 50 so that it states “All elections by the people in this State shall be by a paper ballot containing inherent security features which make the paper ballot difficult to duplicate or counterfeit.”

Section 2 of Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 50 currently states that “All elections by the people shall be by ballot or by voting machines which insure the secrecy of individual votes.”

The proposed constitutional amendment states it shall not apply when its terms or language are superseded by federal law.

“Additionally, any disabled voter may also vote in county, city or state elections by voting machines in the same manner as during federal elections pursuant to the Help American Vote Act,” according to the proposed constitutional amendment.

If enacted, the proposal would become effective on and after Nov. 18, 2024.

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