An advocate with Disability Rights Arkansas said Tuesday that without more information, he could not determine if voters with disabilities will be affected by the decision of Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson to conduct early voting in the small room across from the Quorum Courtroom at the county courthouse.
Chris Adcock was invited to the courthouse by the Rev. Jesse Turner, executive director of Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, after Johnson rejected a request by Turner to conduct early voting in the rotunda of the courthouse, as was done in the March political party primaries.
“I don’t know the setup on election day so it could go either way,” Adcock said after examining the room and a single voting machine that had been placed in the room by Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners Secretary Stu Soffer at Turner’s request.
Soffer placed the machine in the spot where Johnson had previously told the Quorum Court would be used for handicapped voters, just inside and to the right of the entry door, and five feet away from the wall as required by ADA regulations.
According to Turner, the placement of the machine would allow people standing in the doorway of the room to see how a person using the machine was voting.
On Sept. 19, Turner sent Johnson a letter noting that during the primary election and runoff elections, there were 15 voting machines, which resulted in short lines and easy accessibility to the machines by people with disabilities. Johnson told Turner that early voting will be held in the room where it had always been held, across from the quorum courtroom.
It is expected that there will be six machines in that room.
Questioned by Adcock, Soffer explained the set-up that was used in the primaries, and said that a complaint that had been filed alleging that people on the second floor of the courthouse could see the voting machines and how people had voted was dismissed by the State Board of Election Commissioners.
During the primary, a tarp was placed over the machines and curtains separated the machines, but during the runoff, that tarp fell, resulting in the complaint.
Soffer said an election poll judge selected by Johnson had climbed to the top of the curtains and later told people in the county judge’s office that “you can’t see how people are voting.”