Oct 31, 2022 - News

Threats to Arkansas election officials aren't common, but they happen

Illustration of a traffic safety cone surrounded by various colors and ballot icons

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While U.S. election officials are preparing for unprecedented efforts to disrupt the 2022 midterms, many who oversee the process in Arkansas say they're not particularly concerned.

What's happening: "We’ve not had any reports in Arkansas regarding election-related threats, intimidation, subversion, ulterior motives or anything of the kind," a spokesperson for Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston told Axios.

  • Election officials in six counties said much the same.

Yes, but: In east Arkansas' Lee County, commission officials have received death threats, chair Lindsey Palmer tells Axios.

  • Palmer declined to say who received them but said the threats were made in person and were recent.
  • "They believe that … we messed up the election. That's just part of our job," she said of the threats.

Why it matters: Efforts to intimidate voters and spread misinformation can erode the public's trust in the democratic process, and safety concerns could make it difficult to recruit election workers.

The big picture: The FBI and Homeland Security issued two warnings about threats to election workers and voter intimidation this month.

  • The FBI alert singled out states that experienced public disputes, recounts and audits in 2020, including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Arkansas was not listed.

Zoom in: Officials in Benton, Washington, Madison and Union counties reported no issues and said that early voting has been higher than normal.

  • They attributed the turnout to interest in the ballot issues, concerns about the economy and — in Union County — highly contested mayoral and city council races.
  • A citizen-proposed ballot in Craighead County seeks to cut library funding in half in apparent retribution to a 2021 Pride display.
  • "We've got a pretty good community," Craighead County election coordinator Jennifer Clack, said. "Even if you disagree, people don't get … violent. Protests have been peaceful."
  • Amanda Dickens, election coordinator in Pulaski county told us, "I feel really good about the system we have set up here."

What we're watching: The Natural State may not have visible voter intimidation like in Arizona, but it doesn't mean there won't be post-election challenges. In September, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that election officials were inundated with Freedom of Information Act requests for records from the 2020 election.

  • It remains to be seen what the requesters intend to do with the information.
  • Yes, and: More than 100 lawsuits have already been filed, largely by Republicans, to challenge aspects of the 2022 process, including states' handling of absentee ballots, AP reports.
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