WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Arkansas Senate sent Senate Bill 643, which would move up the deadline for absentee ballot returns, to the governor on Friday. The bill moves the deadline from the day before the election to the Friday before unless voters have a medical reason they are unable to vote in-person at their polling site. S.B. 643 is one of 10 pending voter suppression bills the Arkansas Legislature is considering, including one that advanced past the state Senate earlier on Friday that cuts the early voting period by two days.
While this voter suppression bill advanced, the legislature stalled an absentee ballot reform bill proposed by state Sen. Clarke Tucker (D) that would seek to simplify the process. Senate Bill 701 would replace the current absentee ballot request form with easier to understand language, require the forms to be identical across counties and mandate that voters be alerted if there is a problem with their ballot. The legislation also removes the deadline by which county clerks must be finished counting absentee ballots, to give election administrators sufficient time to count every vote. However, the bill has stalled in the state Senate, after it failed a third reading vote.