Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Suit filed against GOP poll watcher, cites conflict of interest

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 4:43 PM

STU SOFFER: Draws Democratic complaint.
  • STU SOFFER: Draws Democratic complaint.
A lawsuit has been filed against Stu Soffer, a Republican Jefferson County election commissioner, because he's gotten himself designated an official Republican poll watcher for early voting in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Soffer has been unhappy about accommodations provided for early voters in the courthouse by the county clerk, particularly whether it properly accommodates disabled voters.

But in getting himself designated a poll watcher, Soffer has gone too far, the lawsuit by two Jefferson County residents says. A poll watcher may challenge voters ability to cast a ballot. Those who cast a provisional ballot under challenge have their eligibility ultimately determined by the Election Commission, of which Soffer is a member. This is a conflict of interest, the suit says. The suit was prepared by the law firm including Chris Burks, general counsel for the Democratic Party.

The suit  also contends that Soffer essentially is serving as a campaigner for the Republican Party by participating as a poll watcher. Election commissioners are prohibited from engaging in partisan politicking, though they are nominated as representatives of their parties to serve on the commissions. In Arkansas, each county has a three-member commission.. Two come from the party that holds the majority of statewide elected offices. Since Republicans hold every statewide office, they constitute the majority on each election commission. In Jefferson County, though the commission oversees the election, the county clerk handles early voting.

The suit wants Soffer out of the courthouse as a pollwatcher and it wants any voters he's challenged as a poll watcher to have their ballots counted.

The suit additionally alleges that the two Republican members met in an unannounced meeting to devise the poll watching scheme.

I've sought a response from Soffer.

Here's the lawsuit.


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