Lawsuit filed to require no-excuse absentee voting in November election because of COVID-19

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Pulaski County Circuit Court to require no-excuse absentee voting in the November election.

The lawsuit was filed by Janet Baker, Olly Neal and Susan Inman.

The defendant in the lawsuit is Secretary of State John Thurston.

According to the lawsuit filed, Baker is a 75-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Neal is a  78-year-old man with asthma and diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. According to the filing, Inman is healthy and wants to stay healthy.

The three plaintiffs said in the lawsuit they worry about voting in-person due possible exposure of the coronavirus.

According to current law, absentee voting is only available to people who will be away from their polling location the day of the election, those unable to go to their polling location on election day due to illness or physical disability, an active member of the military away from their polling location or a U.S. citizen who is an Arkansas resident but is temporarily living outside the U.S.

According to the filing, the plaintiffs allege Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has not responded a request for opinion  from April 17 on if it would be appropriate to have COVID-19 as an excuse for absentee voting.

The lawsuit also claims Governor Asa Hutchinson has previously issued two Executive Orders to allow no-excuse absentee ballot voting during special elections on May 12, but “has been non-committal about no-excuse absentee ballots this Fall and has failed to take action to prepare for such voting in November.”

According to the filing, “To prepare for no-excuse absentee ballot voting, the State needs to act

now to ensure sufficient resources to meet increased absentee voting by immediately making

available absentee ballot request forms, to educate the public about the process of voting

absentee, to ensure the state and counties have sufficient paper ballots card stock for printing

ballots, and envelopes for mailing ballots, and the required forms to ensure sufficient time for mailing, canvassing, and counting absentee ballots, among other considerations.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare all Arkansas voters can have any reason or excuse to vote by absentee ballot or allow the fear of getting COVID-19 to be a valid excuse to absentee vote.

The plaintiffs are also asking the court to order the Secretary of State to use “COVID-19 relief money to mail absentee ballots from county clerks to workers and pay for the return mail.”

To see the full lawsuit, click here.

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