by Mark Moore
We got reports from several counties around the state which said that paper ballots were not available. In some cases, the county election workers were telling voters that the state were making them vote by machine alone. In others they said if you wanted a paper ballot that it had to be a provisional ballot. Several contacts with the Sec. of State’s office, and purviews of Arkansas law later, here is what we think is happening….
Years ago a law was passed which gave counties the option of doing away with paper ballots, except for the provisional ballots. This was not something that the state mandated. It just gave the counties the option of choosing to go all machine. The JPs could do it by resolution. Over time some counties opted to do that, and the number this time is high enough to where it is finally being noticed.
If there is an easier way to do things, human beings will try to take it. It is likely many County Clerks asked their JPs to take this step to save themselves some work on election nights. It is a legal option, and I believe in giving localities different options, so that part is cool. What is not cool is not owning up and taking responsibility for the decisions that one makes. In this case, it was county officials who decided to do away with paper ballots, but if these reports are accurate they are trying to blame the “state” for mandating doing away with paper ballots. That’s wrong. If they are not using paper ballots it is because the JPs voted to do away with them, and if people are upset about it the remedy is to vote for JPs who will change it back.
Also not cool is handing people a “provisional” ballot and telling people if they want paper ballots they will have to use “provisional” ballots. State law is very clear about what a “provisional” ballot is supposed to be used for, and passing them off as a replacement for paper ballots in not among them. In addition, the law has some requirements a to the layout of a regular paper ballot, and I don’t think the provisional ballots meet them all.
And now you know….