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Grade TL;DR

During the 2021 legislative session the Arkansas State Legislature passed additional restrictions on voting rights. In 2022, the Legislature failed to pass any meaningful election law changes, good or bad. Because of the numerous anti-voter bills passed in 2021, the failure to pass legislation to implement bipartisan-supported online voter registration, and the lack of pro-voter improvements in 2022, Arkansas received a D on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Arkansas Started in 2020

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: No
  • Same-Day Registration: No
  • Restoration of Rights: Parole and/or Probation Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: Excuse-Only
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
  • Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
  • VotingID Requirements: Strict Non-Photo ID

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Arkansas as of 2020, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other bottom tier states.

How Our Tier Compares:

  • COVI (2020): 42nd
  • EPI Score (2020): 50th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 4/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): LOW

2021: Two Years Ago

Legislative Action

During the 2021 session, the Legislature managed to pass more restrictions to add to an already difficult voting environment in the state:

  • H 1112 removed safeguards for voters without ID. The bill strips away counties’ ability to verify provisional ballots and requires voters without ID at the polls to appear at the county election board offices by the Monday after the election with ID/documentation in order to have their provisional ballot counted.
  • H 1866 prohibited the State Board of Election Commissioners and county election commissioner boards from accepting private funds for elections.
  • S 643 inconveniently shifted the deadline to return absentee ballots in person to the Friday before the election instead of the close of polls and indirectly banned drop boxes by requiring hand-delivered ballots be returned to the actual physical office of the county clerk.
  • S 644 required the attorney general to set up an “election fraud” hotline, established a process to punish election officials that violate election laws, and created new election crimes.
  • H 1803 increased the list of potential election law violations that counties could report to the State Board.
  • S 487 removed the county clerks’ authority to use voter centers for Election Day voting by shifting the decision to the county boards of supervisors.
  • H 1715 barred election officials from sending unsolicited mail ballot applications or ballots to voters and reduced the number of ballots an individual could return down to 4 from 10, among other provisions.

Unfortunately, in addition to passing anti-voter reforms, the Legislature also failed to pass important pro-voter legislation to establish online voter registration in the state.

  • H 1517 would have allowed individuals the opportunity to register to vote online when they conducted business with the DMV. After the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support and practically passed unanimously through the House, the Senate failed to muster the necessary support and the bill died.

2022: This Past Year

Legislative Action

The Arkansas Legislature did not pass any election-related laws during the 2022 session.