Who’s in charge: Secretary of State Mark Martin

Contenders vying to become Arkansas’s Secretary of State, the official responsible for the state’s elections, brought election security to the debate stage last month and differentiated themselves on mail-in ballots, voter ID and employing automatic voter registration.

The focus on election security can only be a good thing for the state, whose efforts overall received an “F” from the Center for American Progress – the report noted that if Arkansas is following minimum cybersecurity hygiene for voter registration, something researchers couldn’t discern because state officials weren’t forthcoming about their initiatives, it would bump its grade to a “D.”

First the good news. Arkansas does require voting machines to be tested for compliance with EAC Voluntary Voting System Guidelines before purchasing or using them. Officials must also conduct logic and accuracy testing on the machines before an election. And absentee ballots must be returned in person or by mail rather than the less secure electronic method.

Now for the bad news. Arkansas, like its neighbor to the south, Louisianans, uses paperless direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in some precincts and, and as a result, does not conduct robust post-election audits.

The state received $4.4 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA)  grants to improve its election systems, which the National Conference of State Legislatures said includes securing physical storage, training election officials, poll workers and IT staff, establishing chain-of-custody procedures, switching to paper ballots.