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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Secretary of state aide quoted as saying county clerks ignoring law to register illegals

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2012 at 6:57 AM

The Republican Party's enmity toward Latino voters is well known. Make that Latinos generally.

Remember when Secretary of State Mark Martin promised to stop providing voter registration forms in Spanish, until he learned the federal law required it?

More recently, the head of a voter registration drive targeting Latino workers complained to me again about the office's attitude. First, it was short of Spanish language forms. But it did print some more. Then, he complained, the secretary of state was refusing to add new voters to the data base. I asked Alex Reed, now Martin's press spokesman (and a delegate to the Republican National Convention, despite Martin's early promise to keep staff members from engaging in partisan politics). Reed insisted that database updates were the work of county clerks and that the secretary of state's office had taken no action against the interests of getting new voters with Latino names on the rolls. I gave the subject a pass.

Now Alex Reed is back, courtesy of an El Dorado newspaper account of his appearance before the Union County Republican Committee (on his own time, he says). Said the article:

Alex Reed of the Arkansas secretary of state's office next revealed that a federal loophole and apathy among county clerks combined often results in a number of illegal immigrants placed on the voter registration rolls.

Oftentimes registration forms turned in through the voter registration drives to the county clerk go unchecked, Reed explained. That is compounded by the fact that there is not penalty for not showing identification when voting, he said.

"That's why I preach around to the county officials that it's so important to have a Republican county clerk in every county," he said. "Because that's the main person there and that's who we work with the most. Either through error, they register and have the wrong address and it's, 'Oh well,' they're registered voters.'

He added: "I don't know what to say about it, other than it's kind of a disgrace."

Reed's wrong-headed conflation of faulty registration procedures and voter ID is part of the ongoing Republican disinformation campaign. When the strict rules for proving eligibility to register are met, it reduces the chances of subsequent voter fraud to almost zero (Republicans can produce evidence of none in Arkansas). But forget that. Reed is suggesting that county clerks — Democratic ones anyway — aren't doing their jobs. This is a serious charge. Misfeasance in office is punishable by removal, as it should be.

So I had a simple question for Reed. I asked for proof. He dodged the question:

What I said was that the County Clerks are the permanent registrar of voters in the county. I did not imply there was any fraud taking place in the County Clerk’s office.

I spent some time defending the clerks on how difficult the redistricting process was on them.

I followed up, asking: "Have you read the article? You say directly that they are registering illegal people. You say illegal voting is happening as a result and that it shows need for voter ID (which is unrelated, by the way). I want to see your proof." His response:

We do not believe they are registering people illegally in Arkansas. I have a great deal of respect for the county clerks.

So I asked, "Are you saying you were misquoted?"

No response since that question was posed yesterday afternoon.

UPDATE: Nice timing. Turns out Mark Martin and Alex Reed has been with the county clerks this week in Springdale for a meeting of all county officials. Many of the clerks are pissed, according to one attendee. Martin is telling clerks that Reed is saying his comments were made up by the newspaper reporter. The clerks wanted Martin to have Reed issue a statement repudiating the remarks. He reportedly waffled. Reed's comments to me illustrate the waffle. Of course. In the rooms where Republicans go, they will continue to libel Democrats, including hardworking, law-abiding county clerks. If caught, they'll blame it on a lying newspaper reporter if they can't find a way to blame it on Obama. NOTE CORRECTION that Reed himself was not at county meeting, but he was being quoted by his boss. Reed's own written remarks to me our proof enough of his denial that he'd denigrated clerks.

UPDATE II: Allison Gatlin, the El Dorado News-Times reporter who covered Reed's talk, has now posted a recording of the remarks on the newspaper's blog. You listen. Sounds to me like he was quoted accurately.

Reed, I note, introduced himself as someone honored to be working for Mark Martin, somebody doing a great job for everyone, "especially Republicans."

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