LITTLE ROCK — The director of the state Board of Election Commissioners on Friday filed an emergency statement that he said was inadvertently omitted when the commission previously filed an emergency rule on how absentee ballots should be handled under the state’s new voter ID law.
The board adopted an emergency rule Feb. 28 stating that when voters submit absentee ballots that are not accompanied by a form of identification as required under Act 595 of 2013, those ballots should be treated as provisional ballots and the voters should have until noon on the Monday after the election to submit ID and have their ballot counted.
Act 595 requires voters to show photo ID at the polls and requires absentee voters to provide a form of identification, not necessarily photo ID. The board adopted the emergency rule after confusion arose as to whether a cure period provided in the law for voters who fail to show photo ID at the polls should apply to absentee voters as well.
Justin Clay, the board’s director, said Friday that when that rule was filed with the secretary of state’s office, it was missing an emergency statement that should have been filed with it.
"That was filed today, making the effective date today," Clay said. "It was just an omission in our original filing."
The statement says that the rule should be effective immediately because otherwise "the votes of certain legal absentee voters will not be counted."
The emergency rule is the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this week by the Pulaski County Election Commission and Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane. The suit alleges that the board exceeded its authority in making the rule.
The Pulaski County Election Commission chose not to count absentee ballots that were submitted without identification in a March 11 millage election for Pulaski Technical College. The commission has chosen to follow the advice of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who said in a Feb. 10 advisory opinion that Act 595 does not provide a cure period for absentee voters.
Chief Deputy Pulaski County Attorney Amanda Mitchell said Friday that the filing of the emergency statement will not change the commission’s position that the rule is invalid.
"We’ll continue to hold fast to what we’ve done so far," she said.