Malvern Daily Record

Initiative group, JPS talk voter registrati­on records

- By Virginia Pitts Staff Writer

The Hot Spring County Rules, Boards, and Commission­s Committee heard from Paul Helberg with the Vote HSC Wet Initiative at the regular meeting Tuesday evening at the Hot Spring County Courthouse.

Helberg asked to be heard at the meeting to voice concerns about the accuracy of the voter registrati­on records. This concern was raised while the local civic grou p has been collecting signatures for a petition they must submit to get the wet/ dry issue on the November ballot. This issue would let voters decide if alcohol sales should be allowed within HSC limits.

“We’re doing the petition drive, and we’re out knocking on doors in multiple communitie­s,” Helberg began as he presented the committee members with a list of approximat­ely 850 names and correspond­ing addresses.

“Out of that 850 names, I have knocked on 300 of the doors, and out of that 300 doors that I have talked to people at, I have 50 bad names on the list, which is 16 percent of the people that we’re talking to don’t exist at the address where they’re registered,” Helberg said. “Either they’re dead or they moved, they sold the house, for some of them as long as five or six years (ago,) and I can document this.”

“The reality is … we need 38 percent of the registered voters to sign a petition and where there’s a very good possibilit­y that 2,500 of those don’t even live in the county, that’s essentiall­y 1,000 signatures that we need simply because the records are so bad,” Helberg said. “Now, I can’t document 2,500. I’m projecting out of some of the other numbers that I’m looking at.”

“We have documented 250 dead people through casket records, we have documented a pretty good size list through the U.S. Postal Service, by verifying the voter registrati­on list through the Postal Service, that don’t exist,” Helberg said.

“The problem that we’re running into is that we’re not able to get the Election Commission or the County Clerk to honor any of the informatio­n that we’re providing because it’s not coming from their standard process,” Helberg said.

“What we’re finding with our Election Commission, they’ve taken the position that we’ve always done things this way, and we’re going to continue doing them this way, and what you bring to us, we don’t trust, we don’t value, we can’t use,” Helberg said, adding that the group is using U.S. Postal Service informatio­n and casket records when determinin­g if individual­s are eligible to sign the petition.

Helberg said the election office currently sends out cards to ask residents at those addresses if any informatio­n has changed that

needs to be updated in the voter registrati­on records. He said if the resident does not respond to the request for informatio­n, the name is put on an inactive voter list until the next informatio­n request.

“Essentiall­y, you’re looking at an eight-year cycle,” Helberg said. “After eight years, a dead person can fall off the list if they don’t vote. If somebody comes in with their card and votes, they’re on there for eight more years of not voting.”

He added, “I don’t have any idea whether it’s anything that, whether you’re concerned about it, or there’s anything you think you can do about it, whether it’s just our wasted time because the records are so bad. From our perspectiv­e, when we go out and knock on doors in the countrysid­e, we average three signatures per hour. “

He said he feels the system is already skewed against the organizati­on’s efforts. The added manpower needed to collect excess signatures based on erroneous informatio­n, plus the inability to update the records, only added to the inequity. He then offered suggestion­s to address the issue.

Helberg said he found voter roll maintenanc­e procedures which could be adopted by the Election Commission, such as working with the Postal Service on a yearly cleanup and verificati­on of people who no longer live in the county

Helberg said there are Social Security death records the Commission can access to get government data.

“It’s something that’s relatively inexpensiv­e and can easily be done every year,” Helberg said.

Helberg then introduced Jeff Bailey to the members and said Bailey was the one who received a current voter registrati­on list from the Election office and ran it through the U.S. Postal Service’s forwarding address system. Bailey is an independen­t direct mailing profession­al who is not associated with the Vote HSC Wet group.

Bailey said he utilizes the Postal Service’s databases often in his profession, and the direct mailings he sends have a 99.8 percent deliverabi­lity rating. He said the data he received from the Election Office showed a large number of people who no longer live in the county after being run through the Postal Service’s database.

“Roughly 17,000 names came over, and 1,555 of them have moved, out of the 17,000,” Bailey said. “Now, these are people that actually went into the post office and filled out a forwarding card.”

“These addresses are accurate. I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Bailey said. He added there was additional informatio­n he hadn’t presented regarding a list of people who have not left a forwarding address but stopped picking up their mail at the address on record. The Postal Service determines names in this category are individual­s who have apparently moved from the listed address.

Bailey said another measure the Commission could take through the Postal Service is utilizing their address correction request service, which would ensure that mailings sent by the County Clerk or Election office would come back to them with updated address informatio­n.

When asked by the court he came to them instead of the Board of Election Commission­ers Helberg said he had gone to certain members but not the full Commission and that they had refused to consider the informatio­n he presented to them.

“So, in terms of what we’re here for tonight, We’re here to inform you because I think … you should know these things. If you have any input at all with the Election Commission, I think you should deliver that to them,” Helberg said, adding that he feels this is a serious problem. .

He added that he doesn’t know what can be done, if anything, but that whatever is done must happen before June 1, because that is when the exact number of required signatures is finalized.

Several members of the committee voiced their concern and appreciati­on to Helberg for bringing the informatio­n to their attention. Committee Chairman Brian Coston, said he will attempt to meet with the Board of Election Commission before the next Quorum Court meeting is held next Tuesday evening.

For more informatio­n on the HSC Quorum Court meeting schedule, visit https://hotspringc­ounty.org/.

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