November 1, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— The ACLU of Arkansas today put the Arkansas Secretary of State, Mark Martin, on official notice of serious violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and lack of transparency regarding the flagging over 7,000 Arkansas voters for removal from the voter rolls based on faulty information.

The ACLU asserts that the actions and inactions of Secretary Martin’s office have jeopardized the voting rights of Arkansans. The ACLU also cited the state’s failure to adequately notify or assist county clerks and local election commissioners and failing to provide the ACLU and the public with adequate information about these voters and the purge.

The ACLU’s letter to the SOS serves as notice of NVRA violations and provides the Secretary of State an opportunity to cure the problems.

The letter asks that the Secretary of State: (1) cease and desist sharing flawed data facilitating removal or disfranchisement of electors from the state’s voter registration list; (2) ensure the unlawfully purged voters are restored to the rolls and will have any votes cast counted and (3) produce records requested pursuant to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and the public disclosure provisions of the NVRA.

“If you cannot vote in this year’s historic Presidential election because of the Secretary of State’s errors, you will lose a right that can never be restored,” said executive director Rita Sklar, “because you will never be able to vote in this election again. Adding insult to injury, the Secretary of State’s office has not notified the flagged voters and has refused to identify these voters so others can help them get their vote back.”

The ACLU asserts that it has helped numerous voters get their votes back through voter contact, outreach and education, and communications with Arkansas country clerks.

In June of this year, Secretary of State Martin flagged over 7,000 voters for removal from the voter registry due to erroneous data provided by a source never used by his office before, the Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC). Thousands of voters got flagged for removal were people who 1) never had any criminal charge, 2) had misdemeanor, but not felony convictions, 3) had once had a felony charge but never a conviction, or 4) had felony convictions, but got their right to vote restored. This faulty voter record was then sent to Arkansas’s 75 county clerks.

The ACLU letter highlights the fact that Secretary of State’s office flagged voters as having felony convictions: (1) who never had any criminal charge; (2) without notice to the clerks that the data was unverified, (3) without notice to the clerks that this was a departure from previous sources of data, and (4) without notice to clerks that the removable flags were placed under a first time attempt to conduct an audit of voter eligibility based on a new source of data containing information dating back to the 1970’s.

County clerks in Arkansas have undertaken ad hoc and non-uniform and in some cases monumental efforts in response to receipt of this flawed data and in restoring the rights of voters in their respective counties. The Secretary has not provided the county clerks or county boards of election commissioners with updated, accurate information regarding these flagged voters, notified voters of the error, or taken steps to ensure a uniform, lawful, statewide restoration of voters wrongfully removed.

Noting that the ACLU of Arkansas supports the national non-profit, non-partisan Election Protection hotlines 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) and 1-888-VE-Y- VOTA (1-888-839-8682), ACLU of Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson advised, “voters encountering problems should assert their right to vote, reach out for help, and not leave the polling place, especially on Election Day, without casting a provisional ballot.”

The letter is available here.