by Max Brantley
Pat O'Brien, in the Democratic primary runoff for secretary of state, steps forward with some sound legislative proposals to avoid future fiascos such as has occurred in Garland County. The Election Commission there reduced the 40 polling places to two for the runoff, though voters countywide have a number of races to consider. This was the big sin, but it was compounded by a farcical botched attempt to add a day of early voting (contrary to the law) to make up for the reduced polling places.
Pat O’Brien, a candidate for Arkansas Secretary of State, today strongly denounced the decision of the Garland County Election Commission to reduce the number of polling places for the June 8th Run-off Election to only two county-wide. In addition, he offered his own plan for how to avoid this situation in future elections along with encouraging voters in Garland County to vote anyway.
“The Garland County voting situation has become a mess,” said O’Brien, “What started out as an effort to save money has created a crisis that could have been avoided with a few simple legal changes. Bottom-line, I don’t want even one person to be discouraged to vote.” O’Brien offered a three-point plan of how this situation can be avoided in the future:
1) Every county in Arkansas needs to have an election coordinator that has been certified by the Secretary of State’s office as qualified to conduct elections and enforce the myriad of laws pertaining to elections. O’Brien has made this a center point of his campaign since last year;
2) Election Commissions should be required to petition the Secretary of State prior to consolidating more than 15% of polling locations when there are statewide or Congressional races on the ballot. The Secretary of State will then keep a central registry of all polling places publicly available on its’ website. Any campaigns affected should have a reasonable time to appeal the decision; and
3) An Election Commission should be required to perform a cost analysis of how much money it will take to notify affected voters individually prior to making a decision.
“It matters who is overseeing elections in Arkansas,” said O’Brien, “I was able to take a train wreck of an election system in Pulaski County and turn it into a point of pride. I hope and pray that every person in Garland County is allowed to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday.”