Election Commission meeting held under shadow of chairmanship controversy

Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair Ted Davis was voted chairman of the Jefferson County Election Commission at a meeting Wednesday evening that was later characterized by absent Republican Commission member Stu Soffer as illegal.

Commissioner Shara Williams was voted Commission Secretary.

“We’ve attempted to invite our counterpart Mr. Soffer to join us,” Davis said at the beginning of the meeting. “But he is not here tonight and we would like to go on with the business of the county. At this time we will have the re-organization votes for the commission.”

Williams nominated Davis to be Commission Chairman and he seconded the motion. Both approved the nomination.

Then Davis nominated Williams to be Commission Secretary with Williams seconding the motion. Both approved the nomination.

As the first order of business of the newly organized commission the minutes of the previous meeting were approved with several corrections.

“I spoke with both [former Commission Chairman] Trey Ashcraft and Ms. Williams and told them it was my understanding that Mr. Soffer was appointed commission chairman for the remainder of that term of the commission and not for the new term,” Davis said.

Williams agreed that this was the original intent behind Soffer’s appointment.

“I move that we accept the minutes with the necessary corrections noting that Stu Soffer’s chairmanship ended at the end of the previous term,” Williams said before the vote.

Election Coordinator Will Fox briefed the commission on preparations for millage elections set for May 14 for the city of White Hall and the Watson Chapel School District.

“There are certain laws that say you can’t have school elections with other elections,” Fox said. “What we need is a clear line between these two elections. One thing in our favor is that no part of these two areas overlap. We have the capabilities to keep the two ballot issues separate. We can have two separate ballots printed. When we come in on election night and plug in to the election night recording manager we will be able to get one set of documents for each election.”

Soffer reaction

When informed of the meeting Soffer said that he believed it to be illegal.

“I consider tonight’s meeting to be illegal and it will be dealt with appropriately at the right time,” Soffer said. “Republican Representative Ken Bragg of Sheridan has requested an expedited opinion from the attorney general and we’re going to wait for his opinion. Once we have it we will go from there.”

Soffer said that if the attorney general agrees with his position that he is still chairman of the Election Commission then he will resume his post as chair. Jefferson County prosecuting attorney S. Kyle Hunter recently issued an opinion that Soffer’s term as chairman had expired.

“If the attorney general agrees with Mr. Hunter’s opinion then I will encourage the others to hold an election,” Soffer said. ‘The bottom line is this is no big deal. I will do my part to ensure that elections are conducted properly.”

“Given current events if I were the people asking for an election, which is White Hall and Watson Chapel, I would be a little concerned with Mr. Davis being out of control,” Soffer said. “Bond companies don’t like controversies around elections and unnecessary controversy is being created.”