The Arkansas Democratic Party is calling for the resignation of Jefferson County Board of Elections Commissioner Stu Soffer who admitted Thursday that his error caused ballots in four Pine Bluff precincts to have the wrong candidates for a state senate seat on them.
In a press release Friday, the Democratic Party said 152 people in Jefferson County were given the wrong ballots during early voting at the Jefferson County courthouse because of a programming error which affected Senate District 25 and Senate District 27 races.
While the Senate District 27 race (Keidra Burrell vs. Garry Smith) should have been on the ballots for precincts 221, 222, 223 and 224, the Senate District 25 race (Stephanie Flowers vs. Efrem Elliott) appeared on the ballots instead.
“This could have been prevented,” said the press release which attributed the statement to Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray. “Commissioner Stu Soffer, who has admitted fault, should do the right thing and resign immediately. I fully expect Governor Asa Hutchinson and GOP chair Doyle Webb to call on him to resign as well.”
Gray went on to say that “Soffer has a long history of abusing the elections process and manipulating the election commission and its procedures in order to facilitate, either intentionally or unintentionally, an agenda of systemic voter suppression and the denial of African-American’s full participation in the local voting process.”
Soffer is a Republican.
A later press release to the State Board of Election Commissioners, with copies to the Governor and Secretary of State John Thurston called for the state board to formally review precincts 221, 222,223 and 224 in Jefferson County, where the error with the ballots occurred, for the previous three elections, and a “full and formal review of every precinct in Arkansas to ensure that each precinct in Arkansas is receiving the proper ballot.”
On Friday, Soffer notified the media and others that the commission will call a special meeting Monday at 1:30 p.m. after the commissions legal advisor, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter confirmed with an attorney for the state board of elections. Based on the agenda for the meeting, the commission will be considering not counting any of the 152 votes that had been cast by early voters. Soffer also said the County Clerk is exploring ways to have those 152 people who cast ballots in the wrong race to return to the courthouse and cast a paper ballot in the correct Senate District 27 race. That action has nothing to do with the election commission.
Also Soffer said in the email that the correct ballot information has been received and will be installed on voting machines at the First Baptist Church polling site at 6501 S. Hazel St., Monday at 9:30 a.m. Candidates or their representatives are invited to verify that the machines have the correct ballot on them.
Also on the agenda Monday will be a vote by the commission to ask for a monitor from the state board to be present for the Tuesday night ballot counting.