Pulaski County Election Commission Addresses Absentee Voter ID Issues

- Absentee votes were cast but not counted in the primary election. Voters in Pulaski County, and perhaps across the state, apparently were never told. It was a point raised by KARK on Wednesday, and in its meeting Thursday the Pulaski County Election Commission unanimously decided to take a proactive step to address what some consider a legal oversight.

"There's a much higher rate of error on the absentee side, correct?" Pulaski County Election Commissioner Chris Burks asked during Thursday's meeting. "That's where the problems are?"

The question addresses the specific point of whose votes aren't getting counted due to Voter I.D. In Pulaski County, two rounds of absentee voters who failed to include identification in their ballots have been tossed to the side.

"In the March Pulaski Tech election we rejected 76 out of 300 absentee ballots," Elections Director Bryan Poe told the commission.

The primary election resulted in 63 rejected absentee ballots due to Voter I.D. issues.

"When you have 10 percent of absentee voters tossed out it calls into question the whole procces," Burks said.

Add the primary results to the 76 votes thrown out in March and nearly 140 votes haven't been counted in Pulaski County because identification requirements weren't met. And the voters may have no idea their voice hasn't been heard.

"Do we inform the absentee voters that their ballots were rejected?" Commissioner John Parke asked.

"No sir, not at this point," Poe said.

The Voter I.D. law includes a "cure" period to allow voters at the polls who didn't present an I.D. the opportunity to have their vote counted by presenting it later. There's no such provision for absentee voters, and there is no requirement they be informed of the issue.

"If I do something wrong and don't know it -- how am I going to change my behavior? " Parke asked.

The Pulaski County Election Commission voted to send letters to absentee voters to let them know their ballot was disallowed, so those individuals don't continue casting empty votes.

"People who were absentee voters wouldn't know if their ballots were rejected. That's a big problem and that's something we tried to fix today," Burks said.    

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