Friday, October 28, 2016

TOP STORY >> Early voting rolls on with few hiccups

Leader staff writer

About 100 people stood in line to cast their vote at the Jacksonville Community Center on Thursday afternoon, and all the half dozen who were asked said they believed in the fairness and honesty of the state’s voting system.

Robert Bolwinick, a Pulaski County resident, couldn’t remember any incidents of voter fraud in the state but had heard of fraud in Texas on Facebook and was worried about the possibility of fraud in other parts of the country, including Arkansas. Nonetheless, he said he had faith in Arkansas’ polls.

Pulaski County voting station Chief Judge Laura Umfleet, who is overseeing the voting at the Jacksonville Community Center, said, “We take our job very seriously.”

Chris Powell, spokesman for the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Election Division, said there have been no reports of unauthorized poll watchers in the state. The Arkansas State Board of Election Com-missioners said the same.

Shawn Camp, assistant director of elections for Pulaski County, said his office has received “no reports of unauthorized poll watchers” in the county. However, he said poll workers are “trained to work with authorized poll watchers on Election Day.”

Susan Inman, who is a former director of elections and Arkansas Election Commission and in 2011 published a book titled “A How-to Handbook for those interested in Becoming County Election Commissioners in Arkansas,” said, “Allegations of voter fraud is like a slap in the face, an insult to all the people who work hard to ensure we have fair, honest elections. Voter fraud has not been and is not a problem in Arkansas.”

Inman is currently running for the state House of Representatives.


Not only do Umfleet’s six poll workers take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, they are also required to sign the oath and they receive classroom training on election process and procedure.

She said many of her poll workers are cross-trained in case of an absence or other problems.

“We can fill in for each other,” she said.

Training usually lasts from two to six hours and is repeated each year.

Umfleet said different polling jobs include varying responsibilities, such as overseeing the voter rolls or dealing with voter machines.

The rolls of poll workers is made up of Democrats and Republicans, but nonetheless, Inman said, “It’s not just that they take an oath, but most feel a sense of civic responsibility to get it right. Many chief judges and poll workers go above and beyond what’s expected of them.”

Inman added, “The entire process is very strict with lots of checks and balances.”

In addition to training, Inman said every voting machine in the state is checked for accuracy and publicly tested and certified with the county clerk’s office before the election.

Once this happens, the machine is locked, numbered and sealed.

Inman said if the seal is broken, it can’t be used, and the numbers must match the machine issued to a precinct.

Umfleet said, “I believe in our equipment 100 percent.”

Once the election is concluded, the machine is sealed and the results are certified by the County Board of Election Commissioners and filed with the secretary of state’s office, Inman said.

One woman who didn’t want to give her name, said, “I have faith in our system.”


The polling place inside the Sherwood Senior Center also had about 75 people waiting to vote around 3 p.m., but Bill Satterfield of Pulaski County had his ID ready and was undaunted by the large number of voters.

Neither was Bill Wilde.

“I have faith in Arkansas. I think we have a good (voter) system,” Wilde said.

But at the Jacksonville poll located inside the community center on Municipal Drive, June Porter, a Pulaski County resident, strongly believes that in order to prevent voter fraud, “They should ask for ID.”

In Arkansas, poll workers do ask but the voter doesn’t have to produce ID, said Umfleet.

However, here are exceptions, including a first time voter who registered by mail but didn’t include the proper identification with the application.

If the name, date of birth or other information don’t match what is on the current voter roll, the voter may be asked for ID by the poll worker.

Early voting continues at a strong pace in central Arkansas with sunny, warm weather aiding those often waiting in relatively short lines. The election commission said that through Friday evening about 32,000 votes had been cast in Pulaski County this week.

In Jacksonville, the number of early voters topped 2,100 and in Sherwood it’s more than 2,200 for the week.

Early voting continues Saturday and all next week, as well as Monday, Nov. 6 in Cabot, Lonoke, Searcy and Little Rock before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.


According to Encyclopedia of American Politics, Ballotpedia, the poll workers’ request stems from a 2013 Senate Bill that required voters to provide photo identification despite Arkansas’ Constitution, which says the state has no right to write a law that prevents or impairs an Arkansan’s voting rights.

Then Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the bill.

A few days later, the Arkansas Senate overrode Beebe’s veto, as did the Arkansas House of Representatives.

The next year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of voters without ID.

“On April 24, 2014, a circuit court in Pulaski County ruled that the Arkansas State Legislature had exceeded its authority in implementing the voter ID bill,” Ballotpedia stated.

The Arkansas Supreme Court sided with the circuit court later that year.

In New Jersey in 1981, the Republican Party put together a coordinated poll watch that included armed police in precincts with a large number of minorities on the ballot rolls.

As a result, the Democratic Party filed a suit with the U.S. District Court and won.

For nearly 34 years, the RNC has been under a court decree, which is set to expire next year and prevents the party from taking ballot suppression or interrogation measures — similar to the ones Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is now calling for by his faithful because he claims the presidential election is “rigged.”

In response to RNC support of Trump’s call for “poll watchers” at polling sites around the country, the Democrats have again filed suit.