An election law so confusing it prompted a lawsuit and lots of hand wringing is no longer worth the worry. All valid absentee ballots in Arkansas will be counted.
An unprecedented number voted from home this year because of the COVID pandemic. Elections experts worried some Arkansas counties might be unable to count all those absentee ballots by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day as some believed the law requires.
On Wednesday, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners stepped up to clarify the problem law and allay any fears about ballots getting thrown out.
State Commissioners issued a declaratory order allaying those concerns. Their order makes it clear absentee ballots should be counted, even if the count goes beyond closing time at the polls.
The commissioners’ order came while a hearing on the issue was already underway in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Attorneys at Quattlebaum, Grooms, & Tull joined the National Lawyers Guild of Arkansas and the Young Black Lawyers’ Organizing Coalition (YBLOC) last week in filing a lawsuit challenging the deadline for the absentee count.
“Under the law, election officials can only start counting absentee ballots at 8:30 a.m. on Election Day, and must also finish counting all absentee votes “prior to the closing of the polls on election day,” placing an impossible burden on local election officials and jeopardizing the ballots of thousands of absentee voters,” according to a release about the lawsuit.
Wednesday’s order rendered the hearing moot.