Lawmakers discuss possible coronavirus-inspired change to November voting


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The November elections were expected to be the talk of 2020, but COVID-19’s shifted the nation’s focus thus far. Arkansas legislators are discussing a way to keep people involved in the voting process while staying home.

Arkansas is one of 19 states that require absentee voters to have an excuse. Lawmakers on both sides are working to eliminate that requirement for the November elections.

State Sen. Greg Leding (D) said these are unprecedented times, so the no-excuse absentee ballot measure would be crucial in keeping the democratic process running to its best effect.

“We don’t know how safe Arkansans will feel visiting polling locations, so we want to just make sure that everybody is able to participate fully in the November elections,” Leding said.

State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) said the measure needs to be looked at on a temporary basis then reevaluated for permanent installment. He said it’s important to look at other states that already have a no-excuse absentee system in place and glean ways to prevent voter fraud.

“If we’re doing to do mail-in votes, or we’re going to do absentee ballots or we’re going to make it more loose, we’ve gotta make sure that in doing so, we’re not opening it up for fraud,” Ballinger said.

The governor would need to take action on this. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) could use executive authority, Leding said. The legislature could also vote during the fiscal session to give the governor that right, Ballinger said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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