Thursday, May 2, 2013
Legislature Enacts Package of Election Laws
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LITTLE ROCK - Although the governor vetoed three Senate bills that would change Arkansas election laws, several other important election bills were enacted during the 2013 legislative session.
On April 23, the final day of the 100-day session, the governor vetoed Senate Bills 719, 720 and 721. If the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the House Speaker agree to call the legislature back into session before May 17, lawmakers could consider overriding the vetoes.
May 17 is the official final day of the session, and the legislature cannot call itself into session after that date. Until May 17 the legislature is in recess and the Pro Tem and the Speaker can call legislators back to the Capitol to consider veto overrides.
Earlier in the session the legislature overrode the governor's veto of a fourth bill to change election law, SB 2 to require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to get a ballot. It is now Act 595 of 2013.
People in nursing homes will not have to present a photo ID, but they must be able to prove they are residents of the long term care facility. People who vote absentee must submit a copy of their photo ID.
Act 1211 limits the size of precincts to 3,000 registered voters. It also requires absentee ballots and early voting ballots to be counted before the closing of the polls on election day. Results of absentee voting and early voting must be reported to the Secretary of State no later than 30 minutes after the polls close.
Act 1085 requires organizations that contribute to referendum campaigns to file financial disclosure reports, listing donors and listing how dollars are spent.
Act 1413 tightens regulations governing canvassers and organizations that gather signatures to get referenda on the ballot. It sets penalties for canvassers who knowingly sign the names of other people. Canvassers must provide an address, and paid canvassers must disclose their names. They must sign a form stating that they have read and understood the laws on collecting signatures. Also, they must submit a recent photo.
Act 1110 makes prosecuting attorney a non-partisan office. Candidates for judge and prosecutor will be on separate ballots in the May primary elections. Runoffs will be in the November general election.
SB 719 would create a Voter Integrity Unit within the Secretary of State's office to investigate complaints of voter fraud and irregularities in elections. The governor said he vetoed it because it would place too much authority in a political office. Currently, the state Board of Election has authority to investigate allegations of voting irregularities.
SB 720 would authorize the state Board of Election Commissioners to remove county election commissioners who fail to perform their duties. In his veto letter the governor said the process of removal set forth in the bill was confusing.
SB 721 would expand the state Board of Election Commissioners to nine members. The governor vetoed the bill because it would give political parties more appointments than they have under current law.
The sponsor of the bills said that the vetoes simply maintained the status quo, and that there should be a method of removing unqualified county commissioners. He said that he filed the bills to correct problems that came to light last year, when an incumbent legislator pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit election fraud.