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Arkansas

Arkansas made good progress in expanding access in 2020, and there are a wide variety of issue areas in which Arkansas has opportunities to improve voter access and continue on the progress made in 2020, the most urgent being removing the “excuse” requirement for mail ballots permanently. These improvements will bring Arkansas one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Arkansas should continue their enormous progress in expanding mail voting. By passing legislation to make no-excuse absentee voting permanent, Arkansas can give their citizens the opportunity to vote in whichever manner they find safest and most convenient.
Creating an online portal for voters to register to vote and request an absentee ballot is not only convenient; if it feeds directly into the voter registration system, it can be an important step to help verify addresses, collect contact information and to remove administrative steps to process a large amount of applications. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register, current voters to make changes to their address and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
Arkansas can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by expanding its permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. Expanding Arkansas’s permanent absentee option to all residents and making the list truly permanent, rather than from year to year, would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests it needs to process; on average, states save $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
Arkansas can increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package by improving its current ballot tracking system. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office is not only a voter-centric reform, but also a safety reform.
Offering secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots is a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system, and are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling and vote centers, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.
Expanding accepting of ballots with Election Day postmarks received shortly after election day is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner, and one that Arkansas already follows: Arkansas already offers postmark acceptance for military and overseas voters. Accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half.
As use of absentee ballots increases, it is important to make sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to. Signature verification procedures ensure the security of the election process and reduce barriers to the ballot by eliminating the need for voters to include a copy of their ID.
In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure their ballot quickly and simply. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.

Recent Legislation

As of May 20, 2021

In 2020, Arkansas made a variety of changes to its election system. Executive Order 20-44 allowed voters to vote by a mail ballot without needing an excuse (effectively, since anyone could cite fear of COVID-19 as an acceptable excuse) and, in anticipation of an increase in mail ballots, allowed counties to have an additional week of preprocessing.

Additionally, during its 2021 session, the Arkansas Legislature passed several bills related to election law. The most harmful of these are SB643, which reduces the number of days a voter can apply for or return their ballot and effectively bans drop boxes, and HB1715, which bans election officials from proactively mailing voters ballots or ballot applications. Next is SB 487 which takes away the county clerk’s ability to establish vote centers, or polling locations any voter in a county can vote. Other bills made changes less relevant to mail voting, including amending provisional ballot rejection procedure (HB1112), school district elections (HB1332), and election fraud and funding (HB1803 and HB1615).