Judge OKs poll watcher in Pine Bluff | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Judge OKs poll watcher in Pine Bluff

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 7:11 AM

After a hearing yesterday, Special Judge David Laser held that it was legal for Jefferson County Election Commission Stu Soffer, a Republican, to also serve as a poll watcher so long as he was appointed by the Republican Party, rather than an individual candidate.

Laser said that Soffer and another member of the commission had run afoul of the state Freedom of Information Act by having phone conversations about commission matters without public notice, but said it amounted to a "no foul" situation.

Voters who sued, with help from Democratic Party counsel, claimed Soffer's presence was intimidating. Soffer disputed specific accounts of his presence and said he was on scene because of problems in the setup of voting machines for early voting and also to prevent election fraud.

Plenty more details of the hearing in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

I note that Doyle Webb, chair of the Republican Party, told the D-G the GOP would continue to appoint election commissioners as poll watchers as circumstances demanded, but he  said the need is rare. I hope so. The problem is as the Democratic counsel, Chris Burks, stated. Poll watchers can challenge validity of voters casting ballots. The commission then makes the decision on whether provisional ballots should be counted. It's ripe for conflict of interest. Soffer has said he challenged no ballots.

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