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It looks like Arkansas will continue to use its voting machines during its elections following a ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox.
After an 8-month-long lawsuit, Fox threw out Colonel Conrad Reynolds’s Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative lawsuit against Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners last month after Reynolds’s attorney admitted he could not show that the state’s voting machines had ever misrepresented a vote.
Reynolds made a similar admission while speaking to the Baxter County Republican Committee earlier this year.
“I don’t want to wait for the evidence,” said Reynolds at the Baxter County Republican Committee meeting on March 28. “Because we don’t have access to the code, but the one thing that could prove it, they won’t let us have access to. So, let’s get rid of it all together.”
In addition to dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Fox ruled that the state’s election machines provide a verification opportunity to voters as required by law. After inputting their votes into the state’s voting machines, voters are asked to double-check and confirm their votes before printing a ballot. Voters can then check the printed ballot before running it through a tabulator to be counted.
Each printed ballot contains a barcode, which is counted by the tabulator, and plain English text of their voting choices.
“This is the crux of the lawsuit,” Fox said. “I am ruling that … this mechanism gives the voter the opportunity to verify in a private and independent manner the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast.”
Conrad Reynolds of Conway is the head of the election lobbyist group Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, which was created in July 2022 during the race against Congressman French Hill.
Reynolds is a former Army intelligence officer who retired after 29 years of service. He has run for office several times in Arkansas, including a race in 2010 over former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln’s seat and a race over Congressman Tim Griffin’s old 2nd Congressional District seat in 2014.
Reynolds legally changed his name to Colonel in 2014 to get his military rank on the ballot. The former intelligence officer has lost every race he has participated in.
Following the 2020 elections, Reynolds has become a staunch activist over Trump’s claims that his race against President Joe Biden was rigged. In that time, Reynolds has successfully attached himself to Trump, with visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida and other election activists like MyPillow billionaire Mike Lindell.
Lindell announced last week that he was on the verge of going broke following his lawyer’s resignation due to millions in unpaid legal fees. Lindell is currently being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic over his 2020 election rigging claims.
Lindell is also involved in a lawsuit brought on by Robert Zeidman, who debunked Lindell’s claims that the 2020 election was hacked during one of the billionaire’s cyber symposiums.
Reynolds has also made multiple appearances alongside former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who is now running for Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Lake lost her race for governor in Arizona to Governor Katie Hobbs in 2022.
Following her loss, Lake refused to concede and filed multiple lawsuits in an attempt to overturn the results of her election. All of her lawsuits were rejected by Arizona’s courts. She recently appeared alongside Reynolds on his podcast “The Colonel of Truth.”
Judge Fox’s ruling came as somewhat of a surprise last month to everyone involved in Reynolds’s lawsuit.
After hearing from only one witness, Daniel Shults, director of the State Board of Election Commission, the often controversial judge moved to put an end to the entire suit.
During his testimony, Shults was asked by Reynolds’s attorney Clint Lancaster to describe how voters cast their ballots in Arkansas. Lancaster was set to call an additional eight witnesses throughout the case.
“I am a bit troubled because I have just called one witness and I haven’t put on my entire case,” Lancaster told the judge.
Fox said he accepted and considered Lancaster’s argument that voters cannot read the bar codes that are printed on each ballot before questioning what other testimony could be given on the matter.
When pushed by Fox, Lancaster admitted that he did not have evidence that any Arkansas voters’s ballot had been wrongly labeled but did claim to have evidence that the state’s computer system is vulnerable to hacking.
Reynolds’s lawsuit only addressed what happens with ballots from the time they are printed until they are cast, with no focus on what happens after the ballots are tabulated.
Lancaster accused Fox of ruling on the case without hearing the evidence and demanded that he recuse himself. Fox declined.
“It’s an issue of law … you’re trying a completely different case than what you’ve asked for. You’re acting as if you have testimony and evidence that affects your challenge [to the law] and you don’t,” Fox said. “What you want to do is introduce a lot of evidence having nothing to do with what you [claimed in the lawsuit]. What you are saying now is that there are some flaws or weaknesses … in using these electronic machines that don’t have anything to do with whether the voter had a chance to review their ballot.”
Reynolds and AVII have already filed a motion for a new jury trial. In that motion, Reynolds accuses Fox of not preserving his right to have a jury trial and requests that his case have a new trial, with a jury, and for Fox to reconsider his ruling. He also asked that Fox deny the motion for the preliminary injunction he sought.
Paper ballot fight in Baxter County continues
While Reynolds may have lost in court, those activists aligned with him in Baxter County are still pushing the Baxter County Quorum Court to ditch the county’s election machines for paper ballots.
Attempts to appease those activists and their concerns over the county’s elections, including an entire hand recount of May’s election, have done little to stop the demands for paper ballots from coming in.
In September’s Quorum Court session, BCRC 1st Vice Chairman Mary Ellen Anderson asked the court to put together a non-partisan or bi-partisan committee to weigh the pros and cons of hand-marked ballots vs. electronic ballots in the upcoming 2024 elections.
Anderson said she would like to chair the committee, which would place the committee under the direct control of the BCRC leadership. Anderson did not mention her affiliation with the BCRC while pitching the committee.
The Quorum Court did not pass a motion to approve Anderson’s request to form an official committee on behalf of the county. Baxter County Justice of the Peace Dennis Frank volunteered to represent the Quorum Court on a citizen committee if one was put together.
In July, Frank reported to his fellow court members after researching the cost of switching over to paper ballots on behalf of the county that using pre-printed ballots would cost Baxter County $57,0000 per election. To date, the last three elections have cost the county a total of $41,693.63.
If the county were to use blank ballots and print the proper precinct “on-demand” it would cost the county roughly $100,000 per election. If the county were to divide its printed ballots into 45 separate precincts, costs would rise to a staggering $235,000.
In this month’s court session, Anderson said she would address the Quorum Court over paper ballots in the upcoming November court session.