Hutchinson ‘not a fan’ of releasing voter data
Governor answers students’ questions
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told a group of high school students Monday that the state should not have provided any data to President Donald Trump’s voting commission.
“I am not a fan of providing any data to the commission in Washington,” Hutchinson said in response to a student’s question.
“Even though it is publicly available information and anyone can get it — all you have to do is file a Freedom of Information [Act] request to get the information — I just don’t want to facilitate the providing of that information to a federal database. I don’t think that’s helpful for us.”
Hutchinson made the comment during a convocation for Arkansas Governor’s School students at Hendrix College.
Later in the day, Chris Powell, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, responded: “The governor oversees many agencies that routinely share information with the federal government. The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office is not one of those agencies under his authority.
“Secretary Martin complied with the law as he is
required to do. Secretary Martin did not write the law that makes this information public. Furthermore, Arkansas has a voice on the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Integrity thanks to Secretary Martin, who nominated a Democrat to serve on the body, and he stands behind their efforts.”
After the governor finished a speech urging the Governor’s School students to choose public service as a career, he asked if they had any questions. At least 20 jumped up from their auditorium seats and stood in front of microphones on both sides of the room.
The students pressed the governor on the death penalty, environmental policy, Trump’s leadership, the separation between church and state, the governor’s computer science initiative and domestic terrorism.
They applauded the governor as he responded, though the reaction to some questions — such the one about voting data — elicited louder applause than others.
During his speech, Hutchinson referred to a meeting with Trump in which he challenged the president on trade policy.
“Whenever the governor asks a question of the president, you also want to make a point,” he said. “My point to him: ‘Mr. President, you’re talking about trade and being tough on trade and being America first. Just remember Arkansas is a global player.’”
One student asked why the governor would spend time and resources implementing a law providing birth certificates naming only one parent of a child conceived via artificial insemination to same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declared that Arkansas’ birth certificate law, as it applies to same-sex couples, violates the U.S. Constitution.
“We really were seeking more guidance from the courts as to how to handle birth certificate issues and ultimately the Supreme Court … said we’ve got to do it differently,” Hutchinson said.
He noted the state has changed its policy so it would issue new documents naming both parents, and he said the Legislature might have to change the state law.
Another student asked what Arkansas could do to defend against domestic terrorism.
“My first experience in terrorism was not at Homeland Security after 9/ 11. My first experience with terrorism was in the ’80s when I was a United States attorney and we went after some right-wing neo-Nazi groups in northern Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “You always have to look at free speech vs. crossing the line into criminal activity, but it needs to be met forcefully and agressively.”
A third student asked about the separation between church and state and the Ten Commandments monument that was installed on the Capitol grounds last month and destroyed within 24 hours.
“I think the important thing is we have to recognize that spirituality, true values — they’re not going to happen because we put the monument up,” he said. “They’re going to happen because we have values that are in faith, that is brought through our community, through our families and personally.”
He went on to say that the Ten Commandments are present in multiple religions and that the commandments have a unique role in the formation of the country.
“I think that’s the reason Sen. [ Jason] Rapert from Conway supported that and sponsored [legislation allowing the monument’s installation],” Hutchinson said.
“I’m not a fan of putting a ton more monuments out there, but that was a decision made and I think there’s certainly a unique place in our history for that.”
Another student asked about health care.
Hutchinson said he wanted to keep the coverage for the 300,000 Arkansans using the Medicaid expansion component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“We need to be able to continue that for them,” he said.
After answering questions for 40 minutes, Hutchinson told a reporter he had no doubt that the students had the drive and interest to serve in government.
“It’s always exciting to be here and to see their level of engagement in state and national affairs, so that’s encouraging for me as a political leader,” he said. “And, obviously, when you have that level of interest, there’s going to be a natural gravitation toward public service by many of those in this room.
“Clearly, it’s an impressive group of students that are going to be able to contribute for many decades to come.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson takes questions during a visit Monday to speak to students at Arkansas Governor’s School being held at Hendrix College in Conway.