Democratic Party attorney delivers FOIA demands to secretary of state

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 347 views 

The Democratic Party of Arkansas on Friday (Aug. 19) delivered a letter from its Rose Law Firm attorney demanding Secretary of State Mark Martin, R-Ark., provide more records in response to the DPA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The request was made after the secretary of state’s office in June sent a list to county clerks of convicted felons who were on an Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) database and had supposedly lost their voting privileges. That list included people who were not convicted felons, and the ACIC did not specify felons who have had their voting rights restored. The secretary of state since has instructed individual county clerks to verify who is eligible to vote.

The DPA requested documents related to the case Aug. 3, but the secretary of state’s office initially refused before sending a box of documents Aug. 10. The DPA says the documents were incomplete and delivered after the law’s required three-day window. The DPA says the documents it did receive consisted mostly of internal emails between staff members of the secretary of state’s Elections Division discussing errors that had been made.

The DPA is considering a FOIA lawsuit. Attorney David Mitchell Jr. wrote that Martin’s office had violated the law at least four ways.

– He wrote that the office had not provided requested documents in the format or medium in which they are maintained by providing hard-copy printouts rather than the digital form in which they originally were created.

– The documents did not contain attachments that were obviously included with the original emails.

– The DPA says Martin’s office apparently redacted all email addresses and computer file names in violation of the law.

– He wrote that it was difficult if not impossible to determine if Martin had provided all the documents related to the DPA’s requests. “With limited exception, however, the only records that were produced were various e-mail correspondence, and as a result, it seems apparent that Mr. Martin has not fully made available the public records sought by the FOIA Request (sic),” he wrote.

Mitchell wrote that the DPA’s general counsel, Chris Burks, is prepared to file a lawsuit and that, if that happens, Burks would seek to recover attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses.

The secretary of state did not have a comment on the matter.