The right to vote is the cornerstone of our Democracy. Elections have the power to bring us together and to give us a voice. Democracy lets the people take control and bring about real, meaningful change for their communities, state and country. But what do you do when your elected leaders exploit their power and make it more difficult for you to exercise your constitutional right to vote?
During Arkansas’s recent legislative session, there were seventeen anti-voting or anti-democracy bills filed. Out of those seventeen, eleven passed and were signed into law. At the heart of this effort was Representative Mark Lowery. Notably, he sponsored Act 249, which removes the option for voters to sign a voter statement if they do not have a valid ID. He also sponsored Act 736, which prohibits unsolicited absentee ballot application campaigns. These laws negatively affect Arkansas’s elderly, people with disabilities and people of color. Act 249 and Act 736 are two of four anti-voting bills being challenged by a lawsuit filed by Democracy Docket, Arkansas United, and the Arkansas chapter of League of Women Voters.
The Ultimate Power Grab: Control the Vote, Control the Narrative
During session, Lowery’s legislative goals were clear: power and control. He came for our democracy with no remorse, successfully chipping away at public trust in our election system. But it gets worse: Lowery officially announced that he will challenge current Secretary of State John Thurston in 2022.
The Secretary of State oversees the Capitol grounds, deals with franchise taxes, and certifies elections. So basically, Lowery wants total oversight –total control– of election results in Arkansas. But why? He claims that Thurston went “AWOL on protecting election integrity”. He told Talk Business and Politics that neither Thurston, nor his staff, came to speak on behalf of the “election integrity” bill package during session. We’d argue Thurston and his staff didn’t support these bills because they weren’t in the best interest of Arkansas voters.
The takeaway: Lowery isn’t satisfied with his current legislative power; He wants total control.
Any Good News?
Although it’s frightening that Lowery is running for Secretary of State, we can take some solace in the fact that he won’t be passing legislation in 2023. Depending on how the districts are drawn, we might even get a decent representative in his place who works towards real solutions for Arkansans (rather than eroding voting rights). Remember, Lowery not only came for democracy, he tried to erase black history from our schools, and is shady when it comes campaign ethics.
But one thing is certain: Mark Lowery is a threat to the core of democracy, and we cannot let him win his bid for Secretary of State. There’s a reason he’s on our watchlist – his policies are dangerous. We need to come together to ensure the people remain in control, not power hungry leaders like Lowery.