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McDaniel: New law offers no cure period in absentee voting

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Monday in an advisory opinion that he could find nothing in Arkansas’ new voter ID law that allows for a cure period for absentee voters who fail to submit ID with their ballot.

The issue arose in Craighead County in a special election last month for a state Senate seat. 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.

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 it was unclear whether the cure period applied to absentee voters. The election officials ultimately decided, acting on advice from Secretary of State Mark Martin, to give the voters until noon of the following Tuesday — because the next Monday was a holiday — to submit ID.

Leonard Boyle Sr., chairman of the Pulaski County Election Commission, later asked McDaniel for an opinion on whether the cure period should be extended to absentee voters. McDaniel said Monday in a non-binding opinion that he did not believe it should, based on a plain reading of the statute.

“According to my review, there is no comparable procedure for absentee voters who fail to submit the requisite identification with their ballots,” McDaniel said.

Boyle also asked whether treating absentee voters differently from in-person voters would create problems with the state or federal constitution.

“I anticipate that our court would … hold that the equal-protection clause is not implicated by the different treatment of absentee and in-person voters because the two are not similarly situated,” McDaniel said in the opinion.

The special election was won by Republican John Cooper of Jonesboro, who defeated Democrat Steve Rockwell by enough votes that the absentee ballots could not have changed the outcome.

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