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AAC


LEGAL CORNER


Arkansas lawmakers focus on elections in 2019 General Session


in which numerous bills were filed, but largely flew under the public’s radar, was elections. In addition to the defeat of various elections-related bills that would have resulted in unfunded mandates to the counties and inefficient or unsus- tainable voting procedures, this session brought more than a handful of successful bills to make elections in Arkansas more uniform, efficient, and transparent. Act 597, effective July 1, 2019, was the County Clerks Association’s legislative package condensed into one bill, led by Rep. Jus- tin Boyd and Sen. Bob Ballinger. For the sake of unifor- mity and efficiency, this bill eliminated different and con- fusing candidate filing periods and signature petition circulation peri- ods in the county clerk’s office. Now, all candidates who file for office with the county clerk will file during the same one-week fil- ing period, either one week designated before the primary or one week desig- nated before the general election. Additionally, all signature petitions filed in the county clerk’s office will have a 91-day circulation period. Act 597 also clarified that unopposed school board candidates do not have to be placed on the ballot and requires a school district wishing to change their annual school election date to provide a 100-day notice to the county clerk prior to the primary filing period before doing so. Tere were also several acts passed this session that pro- vide clarification in the elections process. Act 533 clarifies what is and is not considered prohibited “electioneering” at or within 100 feet of a polling site. Prohibited election- eering must specifically reference a particular candidate or


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hile the Arkansas General Session of 2019 saw several headliner legislative topics, such as transformation, transportation, tax reform, and public safety, one area


hile the Arkansas General Session of 2019 saw several headliner legislative topics, such as trans-


formation, transportation, tax reform, and public safety, one area in which numerous bills that would have resulted in unfunded mandates to the counties and inefficient or unsus- tainable voting procedures, this session brought more than a handful of sucessful bills to make elections in Arkansas more uniform, efficient, and transparent.


issue on the ballot; mere political rhetoric is not included in the def- inition of prohibited electioneer- ing. Te United States Supreme Court has recently said that such broad prohibitions infringed on First Amendment rights, and Act 533 brings Arkansas in compli- ance with that decision. Acts 207 and 642 also provide clarification and uniformity, estab- lishing that all city and county runoff elections are to be held four weeks after the general election. One of the major objectives for the counties in elections- related legislation was to increase effi- ciency. Act 199 pro- vides that if a county has more than 15 sample ballots, they no longer have to post all of the sample ballots on the wall of every polling place. Rather, the county may post the sample ballots online, and then have at each polling site accessible to voters either two bound volumes of the sample ballots or one bound volume


LINDSEY BAILEY General Counsel


and one version of the sample ballots that is available on an electronic device. Other acts that will save taxpayer dol- lars are Acts 328, which allows high school students to be trained and perform election official duties, and Act 539, which allows poll workers to work on a voluntary basis if they waive their right to payment. Act 1013 was the result of a smart compromise on a bill that would have cost the counties unnecessary dollars, and the voter unnecessary time in the voting booth. Formerly HB1460, the bill sought to add all unopposed candidates back on the ballot, going against what the people voted on in Amendment 95, and what the General Assembly nearly unanimously passed in Act 730 of 2017. An end of session compromise resulted in Act 1013 putting only statewide


COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2019


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