Group starts search for 100,000 Arkansans removed from voting rolls as general election approaches

Voter registration deadline is less than a month away for the Nov. 8 election

By: - September 15, 2022 11:31 am

A sign reminds voters they need photo ID to vote at polling station at Hillsboro Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A civic group headed by state Sen. Joyce Elliott launched an effort this week to contact more than 104,000 Arkansans “who may have been inappropriately removed from the voting rolls since 2020” to try to get them registered to vote.

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Arkansas’ method of striking registered voters from county voting rolls is “inconsistent and outdated,” the Little Rock Democrat said in a news release from Get Loud Arkansas. Elliott is the group’s executive director.

Get Loud Arkansas describes itself as a “nonprofit civic-engagement organization working to fight voter suppression, register new voters, engage low-turnout voters, and mobilize communities to use the power of their vote to shape the future of Arkansas.”

Important election dates

  • Oct. 11: You must register to vote by Oct. 11 if you plan to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
  • Nov. 1: If you plan to file an absentee ballot, you must apply to receive a ballot by Nov. 1 if you request it by mail or email. If you appear in person at the clerk’s office, the deadline for applying is Nov. 4, the Friday before the election.
  • Nov. 4 is also the deadline for submitting a completed absentee ballot in person to the clerk’s office.
  • Nov. 8 is Election day. Mailed absentee ballots must be received by the clerk by 7:30 p.m. election day.

You can find more information about registering to vote, absentee voting and candidates for office by visiting the Secretary of State’s elections page.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibits states from removing names from voter registration lists solely for not voting, but does set forward a process for deleting voters who haven’t voted in two previous federal elections, who fail to respond to notices requesting address confirmation and who then don’t vote in subsequent federal elections.

In its effort to find the voters who may have been removed from the voting rolls, Get Loud Arkansas created an interactive tool that allows people to search the state’s list of voters whose registration has been canceled.

The group also will be calling, emailing and using volunteers to go door-to-door “if that’s what it takes to make sure every eligible Arkansan is able to make their voice heard by voting,” Elliott said in the statement.

“We must ensure the accuracy of our voting rolls, and I know we are capable of doing that in a manner that does not continue to disenfranchise communities of people who have been silenced for generations,” she said.

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The group’s attempts to contact voters who’ve been removed from county voting rolls comes as county clerks and election commissioners prepare for the Nov. 8 general election.

Clerks also have been inundated in recent weeks with voluminous requests for records from the 2020 election that Saline County Clerk Doug Curtis called an abuse of the state Freedom of Information Act.

“At times it has been more than a mild interruption of our activities,” Curtis said, noting that he’s had to sometimes add employees to respond to the requests.

The records being sought often include a request for what is known as a “cast vote record,” which includes information about every ballot cast and whether the vote was in-person, mail-in, provisional or absentee.

“We don’t have that report available” on the Saline County election laptops, elections coordinator Allison Cain said. The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office provided county election officials with new laptops this year.

“A lot of them don’t like your answers,” said Curtis, who is first vice-president of the County Clerks Association.

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As of June 1, there were 1,765,681 registered voters in Arkansas, according to Kevin Niehaus, spokesman for Secretary of State John Thurston.

In the 2020 presidential election, 1,222,777 votes were cast, or about 67% of the 1,828,811 registered voters at the time.

Niehaus said this week that the drop in registered voters was likely due to clerks following the procedure to cancel registrations of voters who had not voted in the previous two federal elections nor responded to requests to confirm their addresses.

He also said he expected the number of registered voters “will get back to normal levels” as Election Day approaches.

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Voters who didn’t vote in the May primary election will encounter some new restrictions on absentee voting and identification requirements because of laws passed in 2021. 

Some of those laws are being challenged in state court. A judge ruled in March that the laws violated voter rights under the Arkansas Constitution and stopped the state from enforcing them.

The state appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which granted a reprieve from the judge’s order. The high court has not yet ruled on the appeal.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Fayetteville ruled in late August that a 2009 state law limiting how many people an individual could help vote violates the Voting Rights Act. The state filed notice this month that it intends to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democracy Day 2022

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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his nearly 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, he retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years. He got his start in journalism as editor of the Nicholls Worth, the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. Nicholls awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2014.

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