The State Board of Election Commissioners issued a warning letter to Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson as a result of a complaint filed by David Singer alleging that Johnson had violated numerous election laws during the 2014 primary/nonpartisan elections.

The State Board of Election Commissioners issued a warning letter to Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson as a result of a complaint filed by David Singer alleging that Johnson had violated numerous election laws during the 2014 primary/nonpartisan elections.


According to the state board, Johnson’s office failed to:


—Maintain a register of designated bearers of absentee ballots.


—Identify designated bearers on absentee ballets.


—Provide proper accounting of absentee ballots.


—Require candidates to file party certificates.


—Certify lists of candidates to the Jefferson County Election Commission.


"Generally, your failures and omissions have the effect of undermining public confidence in the integrity of the election process and must not go uncorrected," stated the letter, signed by Justin Clay, director of the state board. "Failure to follow all of your statutory duties in future elections will result in more severe sanctions by this board."


Trey Ashcraft, who ran unsuccessfully against Johnson in the May Democratic primary, said Friday two attorneys are currently researching state law to determine if Johnson filed for office legally, based on her admission that she failed to require candidates to file documents required by law.


"It’s our contention that if she didn’t start the race, how could she finish?" Ashcraft said.


The original complaint filed by Singer said she changed the political practices pledge she filed on Feb. 25 after the initial form omitted her title — county clerk — but she told the state commission that she contacted election coordinator Will Fox III and was told that the form could not be changed and her name appeared on the ballot without the title County Clerk. Johnson also said her office does not file stamp-filing documents from candidates.


Jefferson County Board of Elections Commissioner Stu Soffer also serves on the state elections board, but he said in an email that he recused himself from considering the accusations against Johnson.


Johnson did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.


Early votes


In a separate item involving the county clerk’s office, the Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners held an emergency meeting Friday to examine polling records and discovered a discrepancy was caused by an error in recording the number of early votes cast.


Fox said he was notified by Johnson that the number of early votes recorded by poll workers when they shut down the machines for the day exceeded the number of people who had gone through the clerk’s office where voters begin the process and sign their names to lists.


Johnson contacted Fox, the three members of the board and County Judge Dutch King and asked that a sheriff’s deputy be assigned to stay in the room with the voting machines Thursday night, which was done.


When those machines were checked by a technician, they reflected the same number as on the clerk’s lists, and further checking revealed that one of the poll workers had written down the wrong number on the closeout sheet.


Fox said the poll worker wrote down 783 total votes cast for Thursday when the actual total was 733.


"With all the frivolous complaints we had earlier, it was the commission’s intent to avoid problems, and Commissioner [Ted] Davis, (who is chairman of the commission) agreed to the emergency meeting," Soffer said. "The prosecuting attorney, who is also our legal adviser, was also here to make sure that everything was completely transparent.


"Our intent was to give the voters of Jefferson County confidence in our procedures and that’s why we made a big deal out of this," Soffer said.


After the machines were checked and the tally sheet corrected, early voting began on schedule Friday.


Early voting will also be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Monday, the day before the general election, Jefferson County voters can cast ballots during regular office hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


— Arkansas News Bureau reporter John Lyon contributed to this report