Jefferson County Election Coordinator Will Fox said Monday he was starting to process the information needed for the September school board elections after he was able to get into the commission office Saturday.
On Friday, Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr. signed a court order that barred Election Commission Chairman Mike Adam and Commission Secretary Stu Soffer from interfering with Fox, who was hired by County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV to prepare for elections in the county and to perform work necessary to meet deadlines. Both Adam and Soffer objected to the hiring and, according to the order, “materially and without justification prevented Mr. Fox from performing the duties of Election Coordinator.”
Fox said that when reviewing the material necessary to prepare the September ballots, he discovered that the Pine Bluff School District, which will have several board positions on the ballot, had not turned in all the information that was needed. He said he intended to talk to the district to obtain that information.
“Today was actually the first day I would have been able to talk to anybody,” Fox said.
Contrary to information that was provided to Wilkins’ Chief of Staff, Lloyd Franklin, Fox said that the July 12 deadline to submit precinct lists, candidates and contested races and hardware coding forms to ES&S, the company that prepares the voting machine ballots, was “not a legal deadline.” It’s more of a suggested time to begin preparations, Fox said.
In an affidavit submitted by Franklin, he said Adam had contacted him Friday and told him that Soffer would not prepare the software “until and unless the county judge provided him with a written contract for performing the programming services for the voting machines.”
Franklin said Adam had also told him that unless the machines were programmed, a violation of the federal MOVE Act would occur.
The MOVE Act requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to overseas soldiers no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.
When told that Fox could program the machines, Adam reportedly said that Fox is not a certified election official. Franklin said he replied that the coordinator hired by the county judge did not require certification from the election commission. Fox said he had been in contact with ES&S and with Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office and had been assured that both would work with the county to see that the election went on as scheduled.
Also Monday, Franklin said the county was going to approach Stacy Brown, who was election coordinator before resigning earlier this year, about coming back and helping Fox until a new coordinator is hired and trained.
“We know that two sets of eyes are better than one and we’re going to keep a record of everything that is done as far as the election goes,” Franklin said.
Wyatt’s temporary order will expire July 28 unless extended for good cause, and Wyatt ordered all parties involved in the dispute to be in his courtroom at 9:30 a.m. on July 26 with their attorneys.