The Jefferson County Election Commission has charged that two voters each cast two ballots in the recent preferential primary elections, and the panel will be turning the matter over to Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter's office to determine if charges will be filed.
The Jefferson County Election Commission has charged that two voters each cast two ballots in the recent preferential primary elections, and the panel will be turning the matter over to Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter’s office to determine if charges will be filed.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau said after the commission’s Thursday afternoon meeting that he would be researching the matter. He figures the violation is likely a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a sentence of up to a year in the county jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
Commissioners said Mike E. Malone of Pine Bluff and Marcus Dexter Golden of Wabbaseka unlawfully voted twice. Malone reportedly voted early and then again on election day, May 22, signing a voting form that carried a typed “already voted” notation beside his printed name. Commissioners are uncertain how poll officials missed the violation.
“This is an administrative issue and a voter issue,” said Trey Ashcraft, the commission’s chairman.
Golden reportedly cast a paper ballot in early voting before learning it was for another precinct. On election day, he cast a second paper ballot issued for the correct precinct.
“But the law says that once a ballot is cast, you’ve voted,” said Will Fox, the election coordinator.
Contacted by telephone, Malone was told he had been accused by the commission of voting twice. He said he had not previously been informed of the matter and had not been contacted by the commission.
“Just cancel it out,” he said in reference to his voting.
The reporter identified himself a second time and told Malone that the commission is seeking action against him through the prosecuting attorney’s office. Malone then denied marking two ballots and said, “I don’t want to be a part of your article.”
Golden could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the commission unanimously favored a motion by Secretary Stu Soffer to ban Pine Bluff Third Ward Alderman Glenn Brown from “the premises of all Jefferson County polling places which this commission has lawful control during the hours of voting except to conduct legitimate business.”
The panel’s restrictions, to be outlined in a letter to Brown and “remain in effect until further notice,” followed complaints to the commission on Brown’s conduct at the First Presbyterian Church’s Family Life Center and Southside Baptist Church polling places on May 22.
Wanda Neal, the election judge at First Presbyterian, accused Brown of being unruly in regard to complaints “about his big signs being placed on the church property.” In a written statement, she said Brown said that when the church is being “used as a voting site” it belongs “to the government for 24 hours.” Brown reportedly then asked poll worker Larry Joerden if he had protested Brown’s signs.
Neal said she advised Brown that church members had complained. She said that after she told Brown that voters were present and he should lower his voice, Brown left.
Southside Election Judge Jim Bacon said in a letter to the commission that Brown entered the voting room complaining that his campaign signs had been removed. Poll Site Sheriff Ellis Carroll and Bacon then accompanied Brown outside the building. Bacon said Brown was upset, declaring his signs had been outside a required 100-foot zone and that someone from the church or a poll worker “had turned him in.”
Bacon said that Brown opined that during voting hours, the church was actually public property and “thus the church had no exemptions from applicable laws.” Bacon said Brown demanded to know who took his signs, where they were and to where the 100-foot barrier existed. Bacon showed Brown the no-sign zone line and told him that Soffer had previously visited the site and removed several signs determined to be encroaching the boundary.
Brown was still “upset,” Bacon said, and used his own tape measure to mark off the 100-foot distance, admitting the line in use was correct. Apparently still displeased, Brown left, according to Bacon.
“He just doesn’t get it or doesn’t care,” Ashcraft said of Brown’s behavior.
Soffer said Brown had “caused problems” at a polling site in a previous election, too, and because of his conduct, “We lost a polling place and we could lose one of these.” In regard to Brown’s claim that during voting polling places belong to the government, Soffer said that’s incorrect. “We pay rent for polling places,” said Soffer. “We don’t own the locations.”
Soffer said churches aren’t the only voting sites which find signs posted too close to the building objectionable as passersby might interpret the signs as endorsements.
The commission’s letter to Brown limits “legitimate business” to voting or accompanying a disabled voter at their request, or serving as an authorized representative of a candidate or group seeking passage or defeat of a measure or political party.
“This is totally new to me,” Brown said of the commission’s action in a Thursday night telephone interview. “I should have been in the room (with the commission) before this was discussed or decided. This should have been presented to me first. Don’t you think this is unfair?
“I shouldn’t have learned about this from a reporter, and I really shouldn’t be saying anything to you until I get the letter. But when I find out what’s going on, I will have a statement for you.”