The Election Commission’s ruling is an attack on the core principles of democracy.

Today the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners held an emergency meeting to issue an order against certain voter registration processes.

The entire meeting, including the commission’s emergency declaratory order, was a targeted response to the civic engagement efforts of Get Loud Arkansas, a pro-democracy group fighting for access to the ballot box.

At the heart of the order is the validity of electronic signatures for voter registration applications and how these electronic signatures are initiated.

Commissioners unanimously passed a rule stating that only certain agencies, like the Secretary of State and the DMV, are allowed to issue electronic signatures from voter registration applicants.

GLA uses electronic signatures in their voter registration process. The group provides the official Secretary of State’s registration form for applicants to fill out; upon completion of the required information, applicants sign electronically with either a stylus or their finger.

Prior to today’s ruling from the board, both the Attorney General and the Secretary of State stated that electronic signatures are lawful and acceptable on voter registration forms. But shortly after an article in the Arkansas Times highlighting GLA’s innovative process to reduce barriers to voter registration efforts, the Secretary of State walked back his statement and notified county clerks to no longer accept forms with electronic signatures.

Today’s ruling renders GLA’s current process invalid.

The commission decision, amidst Arkansas’ already stringent voting laws, has rightly sparked concern and outrage from Get Loud Arkansas and other pro-democracy groups, including us here at For AR People. It’s an audacious move to curb legal voter registration efforts and make it harder for some groups to access the ballot box.

Get Loud Arkansas is an organization deeply invested in voter registration. But despite their presence at today’s meeting — and the importance of the issue — commissioners did not allow public comment. In fact, the meeting was short and without discussion at all from commissioners, leaving us to wonder if there was a coordinated effort among commissioners to quickly move through agenda items and leave zero room for feedback of any sort, all but erasing accountability and transparency in the promulgation of the new rule.

After the board meeting ended, Get Loud held a press conference with GLA Director Joyce Elliott and Pulaski County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth. GLA underscored the disappointment and frustration felt by many in today’s decision, which the group views as a blatant act of voter suppression. “Our process [of using electronic signatures] was a game changer,” said Elliott. “Someone obviously didn’t like the game being changed.”

Former Senator Elliott did not mince words about the declaratory order being voter suppression. One member of the media asked Elliott if she believed today’s board ruling was meant to exclude certain populations from the electorate. Elliott stated that regardless of intent, to which she cannot speak, the impact of the ruling will hinder efforts to register people of color and young people.

We heartily agree. Today’s State Board of Election Commissioners ruling is an attack on our core democratic principles. By stifling voter registration efforts, especially those aimed at historically marginalized groups, the decision threatens to silence Arkansas voices and undermine the integrity of the electoral process. This is unacceptable.

Elliott concluded by ensuring the media Get Loud will not slow down in their efforts to register voters. “If we’re going to fight for our democracy, we cannot be stymied by a bump in the road. We’re not going to stop.” The sentiment should serve as a rallying cry for all Arkansans to stand up against and GET LOUD about voter suppression. It’s up to us to demand accessible democracy.

It’s imperative to hold leaders accountable for their decisions and advocate for transparency and fairness in the electoral process. Organizations like GLA are at the forefront of this fight, but they cannot do it alone. Every voice matters, and every contribution counts in the battle for a more just and equitable electoral system.