Soffer says county clerk, commission colleagues are violating law

Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stu Soffer alleged illegal behavior on the part of County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson and fellow commissioners Ted Davis and Cynthia Sims at a meeting of the Election Commission on Wednesday evening.

Soffer surprised his colleagues with a motion that they believed would call for a vote on approving the ballot styles selected by County Election Coordinator Will Fox, but which instead called for holding off that approval until several corrective actions are taken.

“I make the motion that certification of the draft ballot be put in abeyance until the county clerk certifies to us the full lists of the names of all candidates who have filed party certificates with her to be placed on the ballot at the preferential primary election as required by law and she has failed to do,” Soffer said. “Because of your decision to include the offices of Pine Bluff mayor, city clerk and city treasurer on the ballot in direct contravention of the advice of the prosecuting attorney and the general counsel of the Arkansas Secretary of State; and without receiving public input on that decision as required by public law.”

Soffer, whose motion failed when neither Davis nor Sims supported it, said in was necessary in order for the commission to begin complying with Arkansas election laws.

“The county clerk is supposed to certify the pledge and the affidavit of eligibility of each candidate to us as well as the political party document,” Soffer said. “I went over with a Freedom of Information Act request today and there is no party certificate on file in the three offices placed on the ballot over my objection … There is no evidence they paid their filing fee. The county clerk has been remiss in performing her duties.”

Davis interjected and said that he had a check that proved the filing fees at issue were paid but he did not produce it at the meeting.

“Our position is that the Jefferson County election coordinator has certified the candidate lists and that we are complying with the law,” Davis said immediately after the meeting adjourned.

Ballots and cash

Davis moved to approve the ballots and the measure passed, with Soffer registering a no vote.

Fox said that a total of 35 different styles would be used in the Jefferson County Republican, Democratic and non-partisan races in 2014.

In a unanimous vote, the commission approved and signed an advance funding request from the State Board of Election Commissioners.

“The SBEC offers counties various amounts of money based on county size and we are set to receive $30,000,” Fox said.