FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As November’s election season gets closer, some legislators on national and state levels discuss alternative voting methods to limit COVID-19’s threat at the polls. The governor did not commit to using executive authority on this issue in daily news conferences last week.
“It is too early at this moment to…exercise emergency powers for something in November,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in Friday’s press conference.
The governor clarified statements made last Thursday in which he claimed he supported a voting method that doesn’t exist, which he indicated was a case of being “tongue tied”.
“What I expressed support for is what we changed the rules to allow on our special elections, which was no-excuse early voting,” Hutchinson said.
State Sen. Greg Leding (D), who’s often tweeted in support of no-excuse absentee ballots leading up to November, said he was “confused” by the governor’s sentiments.
“It was just really confusing especially to hear him try to explain it as though he meant no-excuse early voting, which again, is not a thing,” Leding said.
Leding said Hutchinson has continuously supported no-excuse absentee voting and even acted to put it into action earlier this year.
“He actually used an executive order to make that possible for some runoff elections we had back in March,” Leding said.
Leding said he worries Hutchinson may have cooled on the idea of no-excuse absentee voting after meeting with President Trump last week. Interestingly, the governor expressed support for the idea after the president spent some time disparaging mail-in voting because of fraud worries.
“Of course Arkansas supported a voter ID law,” Hutchinson said, to which Trump responded, “Good.”
“But in terms of the election in November, there’s a lot of discussion about how we can make the vote accessible, and if there is, continue to work on a health standpoint,” Hutchinson said. “We wanna be able to use no-excuse absentee voting.”
Hutchinson’s Friday statements did little to breed confidence in possible executive action on this issue, Leding said, but he added the governor needs to act quickly if he wants to implement no-excuse absentee voting for November’s elections.
“I think the goal now is to get him to commit to it now because we don’t know where we’re gonna be in November,” Leding said.