- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Write-in candidates would be required to meet a 90-day deadline to notify state and local election officials that they are running, under a bill approved Wednesday by an Arkansas House committee.

Bill supporters said current state law sets up separate requirements that don’t all have one, clear deadline. Proposed as a minor technical change, the bill instead caused several lawmakers to question why write-in candidates had any restrictions at all.

“I always understood that the write-in candidate was for me, the Arkansas voter, to write in anyone I wanted to,” Republican Rep. Jack Ladyman of Jonesboro said. “It surprises me that everyone has to sign up for this.”

Write-in candidates must already notify every county in which they’re running and file other paperwork in order for their votes to be counted.

County clerks are not required to include ballot lines for write-in candidates without such filings. Supporters of the bill said write-in candidates who give late notice could force a reprinting of ballots and keep some early voters from getting the chance to write in the candidate of their choice.

But Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, questioned whether the bill would suppress a voter’s rights “with a limitation that’s for the convenience of the clerk.”

Benton Republican Rep. Kim Hammer, the bill’s sponsor, said his intent was to try to make the existing law make more sense.

“I think we’re bringing in a whole lot of issues on top of this bill that need to be addressed in other areas,” Hammer said.

The measure ultimately passed by voice vote and now goes to the full House.

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