WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two new voter suppression bills have become law in Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed Senate Bill 643, which shortens the absentee ballot return timeline, to become law without his signature on Thursday. Absentee ballots in the state now must be returned by the Friday before Election Day in order to be counted; the deadline was previously Election Day. And the governor signed Senate Bill 557, which would require election officials to “comply with directives” from the partisan county boards of election — a move that would politicize the process of election administration.
Arkansas voters and voting rights organizations joined a protest outside the state capitol building on Sunday against S.B. 643, S.B. 557 and 15 other voter suppression bills in consideration in the Legislature. They were joined by pastors and county clerks from across the state, who warned against any infringement on the ability of Arkansans to vote. Pulaski County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth criticized Republican legislators who, after an especially difficult election for county clerks, were now working to further impede their ability to do their jobs effectively. “We processed over 28,000 absentee ballot applications and sent those out, when in a normal presidential election year we only do 8,000. And what was our reward? Of course it’s vote suppression legislation, it’s the lies, and it’s the attacks on our democracy. We must stand up,” she said at the rally on Sunday.