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Registering to Vote Requires "Wet Signature" Unless Done by Certain State Agencies

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LITTLE ROCK – The deadline to register to vote in the November 5 general election falls on Monday, October 7.

Keep in mind that county clerks may not accept voter registration forms signed digitally, unless they are submitted by certain state agencies.

The state Board of Election Commissioners has approved an emergency rule concerning digital signatures and it has been approved by the Executive Subcommittee of the Legislative Council.

Previously, some county clerks were accepting electronic signatures and some clerks were not. The emergency rule is meant to clarify that all 75 county clerks in Arkansas should only accept a “wet signature” on voter registration applications. That means it was signed with an ink pen.

In response to the emergency rule, advocacy groups have sued the Secretary of State and the Board of Election Commissioners in federal court. They contend that the rule amounts to voter suppression, and they argue that people can use electronic signatures to finalize financial statements, loan applications, mortgages, legal papers and various documents required by banks and corporations.

The attorney general issued an opinion in April that said “while an electronic signature or mark is generally valid under Arkansas law, the registration form must be created and distributed by the Secretary of State. A third-party organization cannot create and use a different form of its own to register voters.”

A spokesman for the third-party organization said that her group was using forms created by the Secretary of State, and that volunteers had simply been helping people fill out applications digitally.

Amendment 51 to the state Constitution outlines the rules for registering to vote. It allows a person to register in person at the county clerk’s office.

The amendment also allows people to register to vote at state Revenue Offices, when they renew car tags and drivers’ licenses. Also, they can register at DHS county offices when people apply for food stamps, Medicaid and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and long term care. Amendment 51 specifically authorizes those state agencies to use computers.

The Health Department administers a food program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly called WIC. Offices that administer WIC are also specifically authorized in Amendment 51 to register people to vote, and to use a computer to do so.

Under ordinary circumstances, when a person registers to vote it is permanent. However, if you move you should notify the county clerk, so your registration moves to your new location.

If a county clerk is notified by the post office that you have moved, they may send you a letter to confirm your address. If you don’t respond and don’t vote for two election cycles, your registration may be cancelled. If so, you will have to register again from your new residence.

People who are convicted of a felony will have their registration cancelled and cannot vote. They can regain the right to vote after serving all of their sentence, including probation and parole, and after paying all court costs, fines and restitution.

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