The Arkansas General Assembly is executing the most dangerous assault on the right to vote since the Jim Crow era. Legislators are moving at breakneck speed to erect new barriers to the ballot that will disproportionately impact voters of color, as well as elderly and low-income Arkansans.
This week, they gave final approval to three bills that restrict voting access, including measures that would ban people from providing food and water to voters waiting in line at the polls (Senate Bill 486) and strip power from nonpartisan election officials and give it to partisan politicians (Senate Bill 487 and HB1715).
These bills don’t just make it harder to vote, they also make it easier for partisan politicians to interfere with local election administrators – something that could have disastrous consequences for democracy. If signed, these bills will make it harder for all voters – of all political stripes – to make their voices heard.
The attacks don't end with these bills. Governor Hutchinson has already signed a harsh new voter ID bill into law, taking away the option for people without identification to cast a provisional ballot. Legislators are also pressing forward on Senate Bill 643, which moves up the due date to return absentee ballots to the Friday before Election Day and require them to be delivered in-person, rather than a dropbox, and Senate Bill 644, which would allow for a state takeover of local election authorities.
Thankfully, we and other voting rights advocates were able to stop Senate Bill 485, which would have eliminated early voting on the Monday before Election Day, when thousands of Arkansans head to the polls. The bill failed for a second time in committee.
Let’s be clear: there is no legitimate justification for these bills. Every nonpartisan expert agrees that the 2020 election was the most secure election in history, and it’s been shown that someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.
The real intent of these bills isn’t to strengthen the integrity of our elections – it’s to make it harder for people to vote, and they’re using lies about voter fraud to do it.
That’s why all of us need to make our voices heard – and we’re not alone. Over the past few weeks, major corporations - including Walmart - have joined Americans across the country in expressing grave concerns about these attacks on the fundamental right to vote and the foundation of our democracy.
Let’s hope Governor Hutchinson listens.