LITTLE ROCK — The State Board of Election Commissioners on Friday approved an emergency rule allowing a cure period for absentee voters who do not submit ID with their ballots, despite a recent attorney general’s opinion that said the state’s new voter ID law does not allow a cure period for those voters.
The board had asked its staff to propose an emergency rule to address the issue after confusion arose in a special election for a state Senate seat in Craighead County in January. After a majority of absentee voters failed to submit a copy of their ID with their ballot, as required under the law, county election officials were unsure whether the law allowed those voters to correct the error.
Act 595 of 2013 requires voters to show photo ID at the polls and requires absentee voters to submit identification, not necessarily photo ID, with their absentee ballot. The law allows voters who do not bring ID to the polls to cast a provisional ballot and gives them until noon the following Monday to present ID to have their ballot counted, but whether it affords the same cure period to absentee voters who fail to submit ID has been a subject of debate.
Craighead County election officials ultimately decided, acting on advice from Secretary of State Mark Martin, to let absentee voters in the special election have extra time to submit ID and have their ballots counted.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a Feb. 10 advisory opinion that he did not believe Act 595 provided for a cure period for absentee voters.
“According to my review, there is no comparable procedure for absentee voters who fail to submit the requisite identification with their ballots,” McDaniel said in the opinion.
Justin Clay, director of the State Board of Election Commissioners, said Friday that the board voted 5-2 to approve an emergency rule that gives absentee voters who fail to submit ID the same opportunity as in-person voters to show ID by noon on the Monday after an election.
“They considered (the attorney general’s opinion) but ultimately chose to go ahead and pass the rule to allow these voters an opportunity to come back and present the required identification,” Clay, said, adding that to the extent there is any ambiguity in the law, the board chose to err on the side of votes being counted.
McDaniel said in a statement Friday, “The Opinion issued by the AG regarding this issue remains unchanged. We were not consulted by the Secretary of State or the Commission before they adopted this rule.”