Arkansas Attorney General candidate Leslie Rutledge is crying foul over the cancellation of her voter registration form. Rutledge, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, was kicked off the voter rolls after it was discovered that she failed to cancel previous voter registrations in Washington, DC and Virginia, and re-register in Pulaski County when she moved. Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane, a Democrat, said he was legally obligated to remove her after receiving a letter flagging this issue.
Rutledge and Republican groups are calling the removal a “dirty trick” that was politically motivated. But what happened to Rutledge is in fact very common, and becoming even more common after the state implemented a number of strict voter restrictions, including a controversial voter ID law being litigated in court Thursday.
Democratic Party chair Vincent Insalaco pointed out in his statement that “a thousand eligible voters had their absentee ballots thrown out earlier this year following the implementation of more rigorous voting guidelines.”
Indeed, Arkansas’ strict voter ID law caused chaos during the May primary. Voters were inappropriately grilled on their personal information at the polls. Many absentee ballots from legitimate voters were discarded because they did not include proof of ID.
Rutledge argued that she tried to register to vote in Pulaski County, but that the clerk’s office gave her a “change of address” form instead. “I don’t know if I made any mistakes except listening to the clerk and I should have insisted they accept my form when they refused it,” Rutledge told ArkansasMatters.com.
Voters around the country can sympathize with Rutledge on this point. Reports of confusion and misdirection by poll workers and elections officials emerged in several states during the 2012 election. In Ohio, for example, some voters have even been criminally prosecuted for fraud because they followed flawed instructions. During voter purges in Florida and Colorado, many eligible voters were removed for similar reasons Rutledge was; an outdated address or a typo was enough to flag voters as fraudulent.
The Republican National Lawyers Association has also come to Rutledge’s defense, expressing outrage that she was “systematically removed from voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.” RNLA Chairman J. Randy Evans went on, “The fact is that it is a clear and unmistakable attempt at the most harmful kind of voter suppression in violation of federal law – removing a qualified female voter from the rolls notwithstanding her valid registration and actual votes in the last 4 elections in violation of her civil rights. Democrats should be embarrassed.”
Ironically, the RNLA has been instrumental in pushing mass voter purges across the country, specifically defending the right to purge voters within 90 days of the election.
Rutledge, however, is proud of her role in defending Arkansas election laws accused of discriminating against minorities and low-income voters. “Whether it was concerning Voter ID, Redistricting, Obamacare, or the IRS targeting conservative groups, I sat at the table side-by-side my fellow Republican attorneys and we developed legal strategies to proactively stand against or at times defend our citizens from the overreach of this Administration,” Rutledge wrote in an Attorney General questionnaire.