LITTLE ROCK - The state Democratic Party said Thursday it will give Secretary of State Mark Martin “a final opportunity” to comply fully with a Freedom of Information Act request before filing a lawsuit.
The party’s Aug 3 request was for documents related to the office’s flagging of more than 7,000 registered voters as felons, and therefore not eligible voters, based on data the office later learned was flawed. The office notified county clerks on July 6 of the error and encouraged them to double-check the status of any voters the clerks had removed from the rolls.
Martin’s office initially denied the request but later released some documents on the advice of the state attorney general’s office. The Democratic Party maintains that the Republican secretary of state did not fully comply with its request.
“Mark Martin continues to disregard the advice of Arkansas’ Republican attorney general,” state Democratic Party Chairman Vince Insalaco said in a statement Thursday. “Rather than immediately forcing the state to spend taxpayer’s money on a lawsuit, we are giving Mark Martin a final opportunity to do the right thing.”
Chris Burks, an attorney for the party, said, “In a final good-faith attempt to obtain full access to the public records requested in the FOIA request, the Democratic Party of Arkansas will hand-deliver a letter to Mark Martin tomorrow that specifically identifies his Freedom of Information Act violations.
“When the people of Arkansas ordained and established the Arkansas Constitution, they did not make provisions that permitted politicians to hide public documents. The people have a right to their records.”
Chris Powell, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said Thursday the office did not wish to comment.
Powell said previously the secretary of state’s office formerly obtained its list of convicted felons from Arkansas Community Correction, but after the employee of that agency who had been providing the information died, the secretary of state’s office learned that the state constitution requires it to obtain the information from the Arkansas Crime Information Center. That data turned out to be flawed, according to Powell.
J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said earlier this month the erroneous flagging of voters as felons was the result of problems with the communication of information and was “no one in particular’s fault.”
Hutchinson has said county clerks should “lean in favor of the voter” if there is doubt about whether a voter was stricken from the rolls in error.