Monday, July 25, 2016

Data mix-up from Ark. secretary of state purges unknown number of eligible voters

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 10:36 AM

DISFRANCHISED: Some Arkansans could be in for an unhappy surprise on Election Day. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • DISFRANCHISED: Some Arkansans could be in for an unhappy surprise on Election Day.
Make sure to read the story in today's Democrat-Gazette from Chelsea Boozer about a bureaucratic error that has flagged thousands of Arkansas voters to be removed from the registration rolls.

Those affected include some ex-felons now eligible to vote, as well as some 4,000 people who have never been convicted of a felony but were somehow mistakenly flagged as such in the Arkansas Crime Information Center, Boozer reports. It's not yet clear how many of those flagged have actually been kicked off the voter rolls.

Under Arkansas law, felons are ineligible to vote until they've completed parole or probation and paid all fines or restitution. The office of Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin regularly sends state-level data regarding felons to the county clerks in the state's 75 counties. Those local officials are the authorities actually responsible for registration of voters and maintenance of the rolls. But the secretary of state's office recently sent a batch of flawed data from the ACIC that contained thousands of incorrect flags. 

That means — depending on the whether the clerk diligently cross-checked the data to ensure its reliability — some counties in the state may have accidentally disfranchised a large number of voters. Boozer talked to Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane, who said that perhaps half of the 2,000 flags his office received from the secretary of state were incorrect. Some were ex-felons who've made good on their debt and have been reinstated. Others had no felony record at all. Brad Cazort of the ACIC told Boozer that some "very old ... [non-felony] convictions out of municipal court" were flagged due to faulty court data.

There's talk of a lawsuit. The article doesn't mention this, but let's also not forget that black people represent a disproportionate amount of the ex-felon population. It would be interesting to see a racial breakdown of those flagged incorrectly.

I called secretary of state spokesperson Chris Powell this morning to ask about the issue. The office's elections division has already told counties about the problem, he told me, and the division will keep working with the county clerks and ACIC in the weeks ahead. 

But it doesn't sound as if the secretary of state's office will be making a proactive effort to identify individuals who may have been disfranchised. It is understood, Powell said, that clerks "need to check that data carefully." The office will work with the clerks on a county-by-county basis, he said. "We house the data, but they are the official voting registrars of their county. We do not add or remove anyone [from the voter rolls]."

But might some counties not realize the extent of the problem? According to Boozer, the problem arose when the secretary of state's office switched from using data from the Arkansas Department of Correction to the ACIC data. (Using data from the prisons system was a screw-up in itself: state law apparently says the ACIC should be the source of the data.) I asked Powell whether counties might be used to simply trusting the felony flags passed on by the secretary of state's office and therefore not have double-checked the information. After all, the clerks are required to expediently remove from the rolls anyone who is ineligible.

"I can't speak for what any individual counties were doing. But there should be due diligence involved in the process," Powell said. "I don't think anyone is just being casual about it. ... I don't know personally what their process is. They have information that we provide and then they have information on their end. ... Folks have been verifying the voter rolls for years. They get lists with problem registrations, duplicate registrations."

In this case, though, the secretary of state's office is itself responsible for passing on flawed information. I asked Powell whether Mark Martin — who is, after all, the elected constitutional officer in charge of the elections division — whether he might take any extraordinary action to make sure the problem is rectified. Powell said he would pass the question along.

As an aside: One way to solve this problem would be to simply stop disfranchising felons, as some states do. Here's information from the National Conference of State Legislatures showing how different states treat the issue, and here's a map from the ACLU.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (17)

Showing 1-17 of 17

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-17 of 17

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

Readers also liked…

  • Child abuse: What about the victims?

    A guest writer in the Arkansas Times, a victim of child sexual abuse, says Arkansas sends a message that it condones abuse by a lack of consequences for the Harrises and Duggars.
    • Jun 3, 2015
  • The inspiring Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton's campaign for president illustrates again the double standard applied to women. Some writers get it. They even find the supposedly unlikable Clinton inspiring.
    • Oct 16, 2016
  • The power down open line and video roundup

    Over to you.
    • Jun 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Most Viewed

  • The Trump open line.

    Here's your open line. I hear there's a new president.
  • The dark roots of 'America First'

    Donald Trump employed the phrase "America First" in his inaugural speech and it's now featured prominently in a list of initiatives on the new Trump White House website. (Gone from the website are Obama-era references to "climate change."
  • Reality TV: Watching burglary live in LR

    A home surveillance system helped a Pinnacle Valley home owner get photos, but not immediately catch, burglars who stole two firearms Wednesday morning.
  • Room on the mall

    Crowd for Donald Trump's inauguration? Not huge.
  • The Trump presidency begins with populist themes

    Donald Trump took office as president with a ringing appeal to populism, a theme not well-represented in his cabinet. But policies are to come.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The Trump open line.

    • "The Andy Griffith Show" is on TV Land from 4-7pm every day. I plan to…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: The Trump open line.

    • It's disgusting to read all the vitriol on a day that represents America at its…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Reality TV: Watching burglary live in LR

    • So the homeowner was keeping his weapons for what purpose if not to repel invaders?

    • on January 20, 2017

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation