A state monitor assigned to check election procedures in Jefferson County was critical of several facets of the process and set up both during early voting and on election day.
The State Board of Election Commissioners assigned William “Bill” Luther to the county at the request of Dorothy Hall, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives seat held by Mike Holcomb.
Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioner Stu Soffer, who is also a member of the state board said during a meeting of the county commission Thursday night that he recused himself from voting on the report but “I have never seen the other commissioner so upset and there will be a state board investigation.”
One of Luther's biggest complaints was about the small room across from the Quorum Courtroom where early voting was conducted.
“The voting area was extremely congested and only 12 of the 15 voting terminals programmed for early voting could be setup in the room,” he said in a summary of his findings. “There was only one terminal available for voters with disabilities. I witnessed voters wait over 30 minutes to access the single ADA compliant terminal,”
He also noted that the only access to the office to Jefferson Title Company was inside the voting room and employees entering or leaving the room passed within one to one and-a-half feet of two voting terminals.
“On exiting the title office, one terminal's screen would be fully visible to the individual exiting if they were so inclined,” he said in the summary. “An election official led an ADA (Arkansas Disabilities Act) Advocate within one foot of the terminal set up for voters with disabilities. The ADA Advocate was allowed to observe the voter at the terminal.”
Soffer said during the meeting Thursday that “It's clear that early voting can not go back into that room. There were ADA violations.”
Luther also reported that on the first morning of early voting, there was only one “zero” tape (which showed that there were no votes on one of the terminals) but that was corrected later in the day when zero tapes were run for all 12 machines.
One instance of Electioneering by a voter (who was wearing a tee shirt with the name of a candidate on it) was not challenged by election officials and campaign materials and a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Public Policy poster detailing ballot issues was on a table on the sample ballot table outside the voting area on the first day of early voting. That poster was not present on the last day of early voting.
The report also said poll workers at South Pine Wood Baptist Church rarely followed the procedures for processing voters as specified in the State of Arkansas Training Guide and Checklist for Poll Workers, and said Fail Safe procedures were not followed.
Soffer and Commission Chairman Mike Adam said the poll judge and two poll workers at the church had been trained on proper procedures on Nov. 5, and Adam said he spoke to the poll judge on election day after receiving reports that proper procedures were not being followed.
“Voter check in was very cumbersome due to the arrangement of the poll,” Luther said in the report.
Soffer and Adam voted to remove the poll judge from being able to work any future elections, a vote the third member of the Commission, Cynthia Sims disagreed with.
“We have had mistakes made before but we didn't remove people forever,” Sims said.
Earlier in the meeting, the commission unanimously voted to ask that the Finance Committee of the Jefferson County Quorum Court approve performance bonuses for three employees, Elections Coordinator Stacy Brown and two technicians who set up the machines Monday night.
The vote came after Brown said that County Judge Dutch King turned down the requests.
Brown is a contract employee who works for King's office.