LITTLE ROCK — The spokesman for Arkansas’ Republican secretary of state said Thursday the office works well with all of the state’s county clerks, though earlier before a GOP group he suggested Democratic clerks were registering illegal immigrants to vote.
Alex Reed, spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, initially denied comments he made in a speech to the Union County Republican Committee on Monday that were attributed to him in an El Dorado News-Times report. On Wednesday, Martin told county clerks at meeting in Springdale this week that Reed was misquoted.
However, the newspaper posted a recording of Reed’s comments on its blog Thursday, in which he said, in response to questions about illegal immigrants registering to vote: “That’s why I preach around to the county officials that it’s so important to have a Republican county clerk in every county.
“Because that’s the main person there and that’s who we work with the most, and either through error, they register and they have an address (that is bad) and (say) ‘Oh well, they’re registered voters.’ I don’t know what to say about it but except it’s kind of a disgrace.”
When told Thursday that his comments had been recorded and published, Reed replied in exasperation, “Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“I was in my own time, and those are my own comments,” he said in an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau.
Reed said he did not think there was a problem with Democratic county clerks registering illegal immigrants.
“Heavens no, I certainly hope not,” he said. “Our office has faith that the county clerks are doing their job. There are a lot of good county clerks out there, and a lot of them are friends of mine.”
Clark County Clerk Rhonda Cole, president of the Arkansas Association of County Clerks, said Thursday that Martin met with about 50 of the state’s 75 county clerks Wednesday afternoon to discuss Reed’s comments. The clerks were in Springdale attending the annual conference of the Association of Arkansas Counties.
Martin “did listen to our concerns … he just basically told us it was being take of,” Cole said, adding that the secretary of state apologized for Reed’s comments and then said “sometimes people do get misquoted.”
Cole said the clerks asked to hear from Martin because some were concerned about Reed’s comments.
“I just feel that all 75 county clerks, we work very hard and we are not lazy,” she said. “We do our jobs correct and we work very hard with everything we do as far as registering voters and checking applications. … I’d just like to know that we have support.”
A request to talk to Martin on Thursday afternoon was referred to Mark Myers, director of strategic initiatives for the secretary of state, who said Martin ” won’t comment on what people do on their off time unless it effects the health and safety of our employees or our constituents.”
“Alex was on his own time and didn’t take a state vehicle, he drove down there,” Myers said.
He said Reed would not be disciplined, though he acknowledged Martin’s spokesman should have told his audience at the beginning of his speech that his comments did not represent those of the secretary of state.
Reed will be a state GOP at-large delegate to the Republican National Convention later this month in Tampa, Fla.
“He should have reiterated to everybody there that he was there on his own time and his volition,” Myers said. “I don’t think he thought that was necessary because he didn’t know he was being taped. He didn’t feel he had to make that clear.”