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Ex-election panelist Joshua Price announces run for secretary of state

by Stephen Simpson | July 8, 2021 at 7:05 a.m.
Joshua Price

Joshua Price of Maumelle, a former Pulaski County Election Commission member, announced Wednesday his candidacy for secretary of state.

More than 50 people gathered inside the Darragh Center in the Central Arkansas Library System's downtown library to hear Price, 42, announce his intent to earn the Democratic nomination for the statewide office. Price is the first Democratic candidate to announce his intention to run for secretary of state.

"Last year, we had one of the most contentious elections in our nation's history in the middle of a pandemic that threatened our health and shut down our economy. We looked to our elected officials for leadership but too often we were let down," Price told the crowded room.

Price began on the commission in 2019, helping to manage elections in the county during the coronavirus pandemic and high tensions stemming from a confrontation between an election commissioner and a commission staff member. He was the sole Democrat on the Pulaski County commission at that time.

"I know what it takes to run large elections smoothly and fairly. As secretary of state, I will fight to protect the fundamental right of all Arkansans to make their voices heard," he said.

Price said that during his time on the commission, voter access was expanded by opening additional early-voting sites, 20-year-old voting machines were replaced, and he trained hundred of poll workers during the pandemic.

"I oversaw the election in one of the most populous counties in the state where, to be honest, we got very little guidance from the secretary of state's office on how to proceed with the election," he said. "I had to just put it all together because I represented the people of Pulaski County and they deserve a fair election. ... Arkansans need a secretary of state who has on the ground experience overseeing elections."

Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, is currently the lone challenger in the Republican primary to Secretary of State John Thurston's reelection bid.

Lowery, 64, has served in the state House of Representatives since 2013 and is chairman of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee.

Thurston, 48, has been secretary of state since 2019. He was land commissioner from 2011-19.

Attempts to contact Thurston about Price's comments were unsuccessful.

Price told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that there were two moments over the past year that inspired him to run for office.

"The first was seeing how absentee ballots were being rejected for human error or minor reasons," he said. "You are talking about an 85-year-old woman whose signature is shaky or a person forgetting their ZIP code, but all the other information was correct."

Price said he felt like he was entrusted with those votes and to see them rejected for human error upset him.

"I don't think we should be throwing out votes haphazardly like that without giving them the ability to correct it," he said. "That isn't voter fraud, that is human error."

Price said he was also inspired to run after the past legislative session, where he said he witnessed attempts to restrict voting rights.

"During the legislative session, my mother, who is from the Philippines and fled from the oppression there, told me, 'Josh, I saw this happen in the Philippines and I never thought I would see that here.' I told her that I would make sure to protect the right to vote not just for her, but for all Arkansans," he said.

Price said that if he is elected, the one thing he wants to focus on is voter education and a standardized voting procedure.

"Some folks don't know how to vote, where to vote and I think it would be great to get that overall state guidance from the secretary of state," he said. "I also think standardized poll and election process is needed. Just to make sure it's standard across the board. Whether you are a voter in Pulaski County, Polk County or Pike County, the voting experience should be the same."

Pike said he was born and raised a Democrat, but he doesn't view his platform as one that needs to be defined by a political party.

"This is our American right to vote," he said. "Before there was a Republican Party or a Democratic Party everybody had the right to vote. This is a nonpartisan issue."

The secretary of state is the chief election official. The officeholder chairs the state Board of Election Commissioners and is responsible for maintaining and improving the state Capitol and its grounds. The office also collects corporate franchise taxes and processes filings for corporations and nonprofit groups. Also, the secretary of state serves on the three-member state Board of Apportionment, which draws the boundaries for legislative districts every 10 years.

The secretary of state's current salary is $98,371.

Print Headline: Ex-election panelist decides on '22 run


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