BCN Executive Editor Wesley Brown – Aug. 29, 2021 — Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Terri Hollingsworth, the top election official in Arkansas’ largest city and county, is asking more than 68,000 inactive voters to confirm or update their registration information amid efforts by the Arkansas legislature to make it more difficult to participate in the electoral process.
Hollingsworth said last week that her office mailed out 68,425 notifications to registered voters who have not participated in a recent local election. This number includes 40,145 confirmation cards and 28,280 cancellation cards. These and other voters, she said, could possibly be removed from voter rolls in the upcoming 2020 general and presidential election if they don’t respond.
“If you did not vote in the special election, primary, general or runoff elections in 2020, and for any other elections including school board, state, county, or city in 2018 and 2019 — you should receive a notice from my office. This is not junk mail, so please do not throw it away,” warned Hollingsworth.
“In preparation for the 2022 mid-term elections, it is important that you update your voter registration with our office. Just complete the detachable postcard and mail it or call our office to update your information,” continued Hollingsworth, who made history in 2018 as the first black woman elected to county-wide office in Pulaski County history. “It is that simple. If you have received a notice from us, per the National Voter Registration Act, please respond by contacting us.”
Hollingsworth emphasized that the confirmation cards were sent to voters verifying if their address is still current, or the change of address that was sent to us through the US Postal Service is accurate. Cancellation cards were sent to those who haven’t responded to past National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) notifications in 2017 and 2019.
The NVRA of 1993 set up national guidelines and requirements for allowing voters to be given the opportunity to register to vote or change their voter registration information when seeking or receiving services such as a driver’s license or public assistance.
Every two years, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission reports to Congress on the impact of NVRA on the administration of federal elections and provides information to states on their local election responsibilities. Under that same act, local election officials can remove a registrant’s name from the list of eligible voters, if information is confirmed in writing by the voter.
Under state law, the Pulaski County Clerk’s Voter Registration Office conducts bi-annual confirmation mailings to those individuals with whom we didn’t have contact during the past two-year election cycle, (2019-2020). These individuals didn’t vote nor update their registration information during the cycle. The mailing asks the voter to either confirm their address or update their registration information.
In the year before the 2020 presidential election, Hollingsworth’s office sent out 56,697 cards that included nearly 4,000 cancellation notices to registered voters who have not gone to the polls locally since 2012, the second term of former President Barack Obama when current President Joe Biden was the vice president and his running mate.
As of Aug. 24, there were 235,482 registered voters in Pulaski County. In the 2020 general election that swept President Biden into office, 1,223,777 of the state’s 1,403,580 registered voters, or 66.9%, cast a ballot statewide. In Pulaski County, the state’s largest county by population, 65.6% or 170,870 of the 260,623 registered voters at the time showed up at the polls, according to election data from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office.
Arkansas legislature enters national election debate
Unlike the national election, however, 62.4% or 760,740 of Arkansans cast their vote for GOP nominee and former President Donald Trump in the race for the White House. Since then, Republican-led legislatures have passed election and voting right laws that in many cases give oversight of election results to partisan commissions and boards.
On the other hand, thousands of voting rights advocates rallied across the country Saturday to push President Joe Biden to back sweeping federal laws that would wipe out voting restrictions advancing in some Arkansas and other Republican-controlled states that could make it harder to cast a ballot.
For the most part, the Republican push to change election laws in mostly GOP-led states followed the Jan. 6 riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. was violently attacked by a mob of Pro-Trump supporters seeking to overturn the 2020 election results that the former president lost by nearly 5 million votes, about the population of Alabama.
Since then, Trump and his allies have continued to push the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and has pushed state lawmakers and citizen groups to request audits of ballots cast last year in states Biden defeated the former president. In Arkansas, for example, one of more than a dozen new election laws empowers the state’s elections commission to investigate every aspect of an election “without limitation.”
In the 93rd General Assembly that adjourned in April, the legislature approved at least 25 new election laws that went into effect on July 28. Among several things, the new laws will affect poll workers, county election commissioners and county clerks’ offices. Others will affect voters the next time they cast a ballot.
For example, Act 249 of 2021 tightens the current photo ID requirement. It eliminates the option that allowed voters to have their ballot counted, even though they did not bring a photo ID to the polling place, if they filled out a sworn statement that they were registered to vote. Click here for the list of several of the key new election laws.
Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, the chief architect of what opponents term as so-called “voter suppression” legislation to overhaul Arkansas election laws, recently announced plans to run as a candidate for secretary of state against incumbent John Thurston, also a Republican. Lowery’s social media platforms is proliferated with supporters who backed the Jan. 6 insurrection and the Maumelle’s lawmaker’s efforts to views limit the teaching on slavery and critical race theory.
In addition, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is running for governor in the Republican primary, also backed a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election by invalidating 62 Electoral College votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That lawsuit was thrown out by the Supreme Court.
If Lowery is elected in the 2020 race, he would become overseer of Arkansas electoral process in the 2022 that includes the election of the president and a new governor to replace term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Pulaski County Circuit Court spokeswoman Debrah Mitchell said Hollingsworth has reviewed all the new election and voter laws enacted by the legislature in the 2021 session.
“There are a couple that will impact the voters directly,” Mitchell said of Hollingsworth, the official county clerk and voter registrar of Pulaski County. The state’s largest city and county now has 202,591 and 399,125 residents, respectively, according to the new 2020 Census data on Aug. 12. See story here.
Hollingsworth’s office said a white postcard is built into the registration mailer from the Pulaski County Clerk, which enables the voter to mail back their response. The voter also has the option to call the office at 501-340-8336 to update their voter information.
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