Reynolds loses suit over state’s election machines, paper ballot debate continues in Baxter County

Arkansas will continue to use its voting machines in elections, as ruled by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. The ruling comes after an 8-month-long lawsuit filed by Colonel Conrad Reynolds’s Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative against Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners. Reynolds’s attorney admitted that he could not provide evidence that the state’s voting machines had misrepresented a vote. The judge also ruled that the state’s election machines provide a verification opportunity to voters as required by law.

The lawsuit, filed by Reynolds, who is the head of the election lobbyist group Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, was dismissed by Judge Fox. Reynolds, a former Army intelligence officer, has run for office multiple times in Arkansas but has never won. He has become an activist following the 2020 elections, aligning himself with former President Donald Trump and other election activists.

Judge Fox’s ruling came as a surprise, as he ended the case after hearing from only one witness, Daniel Shults, director of the State Board of Election Commission. Reynolds’s attorney argued that voters cannot read the barcodes on the printed ballots, but Fox questioned what other testimony could be given on the matter. The attorney admitted that he did not have evidence of wrongly labeled ballots but claimed that the state’s computer system is vulnerable to hacking. The judge ruled that the case was focused on the verification process for voters and that the other claims were unrelated.

Reynolds and the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative have filed a motion for a new jury trial, accusing Judge Fox of not preserving their right to a jury trial and requesting a new trial with a jury. They also asked the judge to reconsider his ruling and deny the motion for the preliminary injunction they sought.

While Reynolds may have lost the lawsuit, activists aligned with him in Baxter County are still pushing for paper ballots. They have been urging the Baxter County Quorum Court to switch from electronic ballots to paper ballots. Despite attempts to address their concerns, including a hand recount of the May election, the demand for paper ballots persists. In September, BCRC 1st Vice Chairman Mary Ellen Anderson requested the formation of a non-partisan or bi-partisan committee to evaluate the pros and cons of hand-marked vs. electronic ballots in the upcoming 2024 elections. The request was not approved by the Quorum Court.

The cost of switching to paper ballots in Baxter County has been a point of contention. Using pre-printed ballots would cost the county $57,000 per election, while using blank ballots and printing the precinct information “on-demand” would cost roughly $100,000 per election. Dividing the printed ballots into 45 separate precincts would raise the cost to $235,000 per election. Anderson plans to address the Quorum Court on the issue in the upcoming November court session.

Overall, the ruling by Judge Fox allows Arkansas to continue using its voting machines in elections, while activists in Baxter County continue to push for paper ballots. The debate over the verification process and the cost of different ballot options remains ongoing.

Original Story at – 2023-10-09 06:59:51

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