Tagarkansas

Stories about Arkansas

Votes for Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted

Votes for Arkansas Issue 4, a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be counted after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners’ decision to not certify the initiative’s ballot title.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and qualified for the ballot.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular name for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot was August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot.

Under Issue 4, adults 21 years old and older would be authorized to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. By March 7, 2023, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana at their existing dispensaries and one additional location for adult-use marijuana sales only. By July 5, 2023, an additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery and would need to be located at least five miles away from a dispensary with an active license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for licensing.

Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised $4.01 million according to campaign finance reports covering information through August 31. The campaign said Issue 4 would “[support] law enforcement salaries and bolster local police budgets so that our officers can go after serious crime,” “[improve] the Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana program by removing burdensome taxes that are currently being paid by qualified patients receiving medical treatment,” and “safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older and create revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments.”

Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative and has raised $2 million. Safe and Secure Communities said, “We’re on a mission to save Arkansas from the destructive effects of legalized drugs, and we need your support. Many cities around the nation are destroyed, and now Arkansas is at risk. Help keep Arkansas communities secure and our citizens safe. The pot industry is directly targeting kids, even though hundreds of scientific studies show that marijuana – especially today’s high-potency weed – permanently damages the teenage brain. Teens who smoke pot regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users, and as adults they earn less and have a lower IQ. Marijuana-related policy changes, including legalization, have significant unintended consequences for children, adolescents, and cities large and small.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. A marijuana legalization initiative targeting the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma was ordered to appear on the 2024 ballot after legal challenges were not resolved before state deadlines to print ballots.



Five measures that would change the initiative process are on the ballot in 2022

In November, there are a total of five measures on the ballot related to the initiative process. A ballot initiative is a way that citizens can propose, amend, or repeal a state law or constitutional provision by collecting signatures from registered voters. Successful signature drives result in an initiative being placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject. Twenty-six states have an initiative process at the state level, and each state has different rules and requirements regarding the ballot initiative process, including majority and supermajority requirements, single-subject rules, and requirements for measures that increase taxes.

Five measures regarding the initiative process are on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election. One measure was on the ballot in June. This November, the states with ballot measures regarding the initiative process are Arizona (3 measures), Arkansas (1 measure), and Colorado (1 measure). 

Last June, voters rejected a measure in South Dakota called Amendment C by 67-32%. Amendment C would have changed the vote requirement from a simple majority to a 60% majority for ballot measures that increase taxes or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In November, voters will decide on five measures regarding the initiative process in Arizona, Arkansas, and Colorado:

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Amends the Arkansas Constitution to require a 60% vote of approval from voters to adopt constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.
  • Arizona Proposition 128: Amends the Arizona Constitution to allow the Arizona State Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Arizona Proposition 129: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject.
  • Arizona Proposition 132: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require a 60% vote for voters to pass ballot measures to approve taxes.
  • Colorado Proposition GG: Requires the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives that affect income taxes to include information on how the change would affect income taxes for different categories of income.

Between 2010 and June 2022, there were 20 measures regarding the initiative process on the ballot. Voters approved 11 (55%) of them, while nine (45%) were rejected.

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Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative to appear on November ballot; votes may not be counted pending state supreme court ruling

On Aug. 11, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the election on Nov. 8. Votes on the initiative may not be counted pending a court ruling on the initiative’s ballot language.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular names for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot is August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot. Votes on the initiative may not be counted, however, if the supreme court rules that the ballot language is misleading. Case briefs were scheduled to be filed with the court through September 2, 2022.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota. Marijuana legalization measures could also appear on the ballot in Oklahoma and North Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Since 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court has invalidated nine citizen-initiated measures that had been certified for the ballot. In 2020, three citizen-initiated measures were certified for the ballot. Two were later blocked from appearing on the ballot. One appeared on the ballot, but votes for the measure were not counted or certified. In 2018, a citizen initiative was blocked from appearing on the ballot after having been certified. In 2016, three initiatives appeared on the ballot, but votes on the measures were not counted or certified. In 2012, two initiatives appeared on the ballot, but votes were not counted or certified.

From 2012 to 2018, six citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot and had votes counted and results certified. Of the six measures, four were approved (66.67%) and two (33.33%) were defeated.



Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declines to certify ballot language for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

On August 3, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot titles and popular names for two initiatives that had submitted signatures. Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 said they were considering their options to challenge the board’s decision. Responsible Growth Arkansas said they planned to challenge the board’s decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. The Arkansas Secretary of State announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 reported submitting 103,096 signatures for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. In 2018, voters approved Issue 4 authorizing the county to grant a casino license for one casino. Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation.

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Signatures submitted in Arkansas for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

In Arkansas, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. Steve Lancaster, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “we’re going to be well in excess of what we need to get on the ballot, so we’re very excited about that.” Of the signatures submitted, 89,151 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Signatures were also submitted for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. The county was authorized to grant a casino license for one casino when voters approved Issue 4 in 2018.

Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation, but the license is not yet in effect pending legal challenges.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “Gambling interests are desperately trying to bring a casino to Pope County, over the objections of our community. In 2018, out-of-state casino developers wrote Pope County into a statewide ballot initiative to legalize casino gambling in just four counties in Arkansas—without any input from Pope County citizens. It turns out that Pope County voters don’t want a casino. We rejected Amendment 100 by a 3-2 margin, the highest NO vote of any county in the state.”

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Boozman defeats three challengers to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas outright

Incumbent John Boozman defeated three other candidates—Jake Bequette, Heath Loftis, and Jan Morgan—in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas on May 24, 2022.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, said the key question in the primary was whether Boozman would be able to get more than 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. With 90% of precincts reporting, Boozman led with 58% of the vote, followed by Bequette with 21% and Morgan with 19%.

Boozman, a former optometrist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Boozman had the endorsements of former President Donald Trump (R), U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former White House Press Secretary and 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). Boozman highlighted Trump’s endorsement and focused on his legislative record, saying, “[President Trump and I] rebuilt our military, stood up for our veterans, helped our farmers through challenging and unprecedented times, confirmed three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court and completely reshaped the judiciary.”

Bequette, a U.S. Army veteran and a former football player from Little Rock, cited immigration and law enforcement as top issues. Bequette described himself as a political outsider and highlighted his military service and time as a player for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New England Patriots. Bequette said, “I’m no squish career politician. I’m a former all-SEC Razorback and an army veteran who left the NFL and volunteered for the 101st Airborne in Iraq.” Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R) and Burgess Owens (R) endorsed Bequette.

Morgan worked as a journalist and owned a firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Morgan focused on immigration and election administration and said she supported term limits. Morgan described herself as a conservative fighter, saying, “America needs aggressive fighters in D.C. who will get in the ring and boldly take on our enemies rather than stand on the sidelines.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn endorsed Morgan.

Bequette and Morgan called Boozman a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and criticized him for not challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Bequette also criticized Boozman for not committing to a debate. Boozman’s campaign responded by highlighting Trump’s endorsement and Boozman’s record. In one of Boozman’s campaign ads, the narrator said, “[Boozman] is a workhorse, not a show pony.” It continued, “Others have words; Boozman does the work.”

At the time of the primary, groups not directly affiliated with any of the candidates had spent $5 million in the race, the second-largest amount of satellite spending for a U.S. Senate primary where a GOP incumbent was running for re-election in 2022, according to data from Open Secrets. The Arkansas Patriots Fund spent $1.5 million in support of Bequette, the most of any group. The group received a $1 million donation from businessman Richard Uihlein last year, according to data from the FEC. Several different groups spent a combined total of $2.1 million in support of Boozman.

At the time of the primary, three independent election forecasters considered the general election as Solid Republican.



Incumbent John Thurston defeats Eddie Joe Williams in Arkansas’ Republican primary for secretary of state

Incumbent John Thurston defeated former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in the Republican primary for Arkansas Secretary of State on May 24, 2022.

Based on unofficial results, Thurston had 72% of the vote to Williams’ 28%.

During the primary, Thurston and Williams disagreed on how Arkansas handled the 2020 election. Thurston said, “There were inconsistencies across the country … however, as a result of the hard work of my staff, we did not have these issues in Arkansas.”

Williams pointed to 327 disqualified ballots included in the total count for Pulaski County, saying, “When that happens, leadership has to stand up … I will make every effort to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”

Thurston was first elected secretary of state in 2018 and served as the commissioner of state lands from 2011 to 2019. Before entering office, Thurston was a minister in Little Rock and with the Arkansas state prison system.

Thurston highlighted his experience as secretary of state, saying he would “continue the focus on election security, preservation and security of the Capitol, and to continue to provide great customer service to those wishing to do business within the state of Arkansas.”

Williams was mayor of Cabot from 2007 to 2010 and served in the Arkansas Senate from 2011 to 2017. Williams left that position when former President Donald Trump (R) appointed him to the Southern States Energy Board. Williams also worked with Union Pacific Railroad as a regional director of transportation.

In a candidate interview, Williams said, “my greatest obligation as secretary of state is to prepare for the unexpected, whether that is preparing for Capitol protests, ensuring integrity during elections, or having groups and teams ready to uphold Arkansas voting laws.”

In Arkansas, the secretary of state has jurisdiction over state election laws, ensuring uniform implementation throughout the state. The secretary of state is also responsible for assisting county officials with conducting elections. In addition to election-related responsibilities, the secretary of state oversees business filings and maintains the state capitol grounds and the capitol police.

Arkansas has a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans control the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Upon his election to the office in 2018, Thurston became the second Republican secretary of state in Arkansas since Reconstruction.



Alabama bond question, Atlanta and Little Rock local measures on Tuesday ballot

On May 24, Alabama voters will decide Amendment 1. The measure would amend the state constitution to issue up to $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks.

Of the bonds, $80 million would be used for state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and $5 million would be used for historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC). The ACDNR manages 21 state parks spanning a total of approximately 45,300 acres of land and water. The AHC owns and manages 15 historic sites in Alabama including forts, battlefields, and archaeological sites, historic houses, and museums. The commission’s mission statement is to “protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places.”

Under the amendment, bond proceeds could not be used for improvement, acquisition, provision, construction, equipping, or maintenance of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. If bond proceeds exceed $85 million for any reason, additional proceeds would be allocated to the Alabama Forestry Commission for capital improvements and maintenance of state forests.

Under the amendment, no bond proceeds could be expended for maintenance or improvements to the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. The home that exists at the park was constructed in 1902 as a care facility for Confederate veterans in Alabama. The last Confederate veteran living on the site died in 1934. The Alabama State Legislature created the Confederate Memorial Park in 1964 as “a shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.” The Confederate Memorial Park has been managed by the Alabama Historical Commission since 1971.

The amendment is supported by Governor Kay Ivey (R), who said, “It’s just real important that we all vote ‘Yes’ on that amendment on the ballot. We have so much natural beauty here, and it’s important that we offer our citizens and tourists the great opportunities to experience and enjoy them. With your support of the State Parks bond issue on May 24th, we will soon have ribbon-cuttings on several renovated campgrounds, cabins and improved day-use areas in our 21 State Parks.”

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Christopher Blankenship said, “As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health. We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” Blankenship also said attendance to state parks was up by about 1.2 million visitors in 2020 and the amendment would bring the state parks “up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campground.”

In Alabama, a constitutional amendment must be passed by a 60 percent vote in each house of the state legislature during one legislative session.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R) as House Bill 565. On April 13, 2021, the House approved it in a vote of 97-1, with five absent or not voting. On April 29, the Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0, with five absent or not voting. The House concurred with the amendments on the same day in a vote of 98-0, with five absent or not voting.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years in Alabama from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.51%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15.

Voters of Alabama cast ballots on five bond issues, totaling $535.2 million in value, since 1998. All were approved. The most recent bond issue decided by voters was on the ballot in 2000.

Also on May 24, voters in Little Rock Arkansas will decide a question reducing the existing capital-improvement millage from 1.8 to 1.3 mills, equal to $130 per $100,000 of assessed property value, and dedicating funds to a future issuance of bonds not to exceed $42 million for capital improvements to the Central Arkansas Library System.

Voters in Atlanta will decide two bond measures and a sales tax increase measure on May 24. The bond issues would authorize $213.01 million in general obligation bonds for constructing, improving, and repairing public safety facilities and parks and recreational facilities and $192.99 million in general obligation bonds for acquiring, planning, constructing, and maintaining roads, bicycle and transit lanes, sidewalks, pathways and trails, parks and playgrounds, and other related projects. The sales tax increase measure proposes to enact a sales tax of 0.4 percent for no more than five years to provide funding for transportation and congestion reduction projects.

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Four candidates are running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas

Four candidates — Jake Bequette, Heath Loftis, Jan Morgan, and incumbent John Boozman — are running in the Republican primary on May 24, 2022, for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. Boozman, Bequette, and Morgan have led in polling and fundraising.

In Arkansas, a primary candidate must win more than 50% of the votes cast in order to win the election. If no candidate meets that threshold, a runoff will be held between the top two vote-getters on June 21.

Roby Brock, editor-in-chief of Talk Business & Politics, an Arkansas news website, said, “The key question in the U.S. Senate GOP primary is whether two-term U.S. Senator John Boozman can avoid a runoff election with a decidedly more conservative opponent. While our survey shows Boozman coming up just short of the magic 50% to avoid a costly and time-consuming contest, a chunk of probable GOP primary voters remain undecided.”

Boozman, a former optometrist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Boozman has the endorsements of former President Donald Trump (R), U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former White House Press Secretary and 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). Boozman has highlighted Trump’s endorsement and has focused on his legislative record, saying, “[President Trump and I] rebuilt our military, stood up for our veterans, helped our farmers through challenging and unprecedented times, confirmed three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court and completely reshaped the judiciary.”

Bequette is a U.S. Army veteran and a former football player from Little Rock. Bequette cited immigration and law enforcement as top issues and has highlighted his military service and time as a player for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New England Patriots. Bequette described himself as a political outsider, saying, “I’m no squish career politician. I’m a former all-SEC Razorback and an army veteran who left the NFL and volunteered for the 101st Airborne in Iraq.” Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R) and Burgess Owens (R) have endorsed Bequette.

Morgan is a former journalist and gubernatorial candidate who owns a firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Morgan has focused on immigration and election administration and has said she supports term limits. Morgan described herself as a conservative fighter, saying, “America needs aggressive fighters in D.C. who will get in the ring and boldly take on our enemies rather than stand on the sidelines.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has endorsed Morgan.

Bequette and Morgan have called Boozman a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and have criticized him for not challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Bequette has also criticized Boozman for not committing to a debate. Boozman’s campaign has responded by highlighting Trump’s endorsement and Boozman’s record. In one of Boozman’s campaign ads, the narrator says, “[Boozman] is a workhorse, not a show pony.” It continues, “Others have words; Boozman does the work.”

As of May 2022, groups not directly affiliated with any of the candidates had spent a total of $2,787,346 in the race, the second-largest amount of satellite spending for a primary where a GOP incumbent is running for re-election, according to data from Open Secrets. The Arkansas Patriots Fund has spent $1,471,182 in support of Bequette, the most of any group. The group received a $1M donation from businessman Richard Uihlein last year, according to data from the FEC. Several different groups have spent a combined total of $1,163,214 in support of Boozman.

As of May 2022, three independent election forecasters considered the general election as Solid Republican.



Two candidates running in Arkansas’ Republican primary for secretary of state

Incumbent John Thurston and Eddie Joe Williams are running in the Republican primary for Arkansas Secretary of State on May 24, 2022.

In Arkansas, the secretary of state has jurisdiction over state election laws and ensuring uniform implementation throughout the state. The secretary of state is also responsible for assisting county officials with conducting elections. In addition to election-related responsibilities, the secretary of state oversees business filings and maintains the state capitol grounds and the capitol police.

Thurston and Williams have disagreed on how Arkansas handled the 2020 election. Thurston said his office assisted counties in implementing a uniform system of election equipment, adding, “There were inconsistencies across the country … however, as a result of the hard work of my staff, we did not have these issues in Arkansas.”

Williams disagreed, referencing 327 disqualified ballots included in the total count for Pulaski County, the state’s largest. Thurston responded, saying elections were run at the county level, not by the secretary of state’s office. Williams replied, “When that happens, leadership has to stand up … I will make every effort to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”

Thurston was first elected secretary of state in 2018 and served as the commissioner of state lands from 2011 to 2019. Before entering office, Thurston worked as a minister in Little Rock and with the Arkansas state prison system. Thurston highlighted his experience as secretary of state, saying he would “continue the focus on election security, preservation and security of the Capitol, and to continue to provide great customer service to those wishing to do business within the state of Arkansas.”

Williams was mayor of Cabot from 2007 to 2010. He served in the Arkansas State Senate from 2011 to 2017, before leaving office to join the Southern States Energy Board as an appointee of Pres. Donald Trump (R). Williams also worked with Union Pacific Railroad as a regional director of transportation. In a candidate interview, Williams said, “my greatest obligation as secretary of state is to prepare for the unexpected, whether that is preparing for Capitol protests, ensuring integrity during elections, or having groups and teams ready to uphold Arkansas voting laws.”

Arkansas is a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans control the offices of the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Upon his election to the office in 2018, Thurston became the second Republican secretary of state in Arkansas since the Reconstruction Era. The most recent time a Democrat won statewide elected office in Arkansas was in 2010.

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