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STU SOFFER: Election commission walkout.

The Jefferson County Election Commission had one of its typical wrangles (Deltaplexnews.com)  Monday night before voting to ask its attorney to seek a court order delaying a March 31 runoff election until May 24.

Jefferson is one of 12 counties with runoffs, typically for local positions.

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Secretary of State John Thurston had told the state Board of Election Commissioners earlier Monday that he didn’t believe the board had the authority to approve requests for delays in elections due to the coronavirus but urged those with elections to take all safety precautions.

Other states have sought court approval for delays, including Ohio, which was refused by a judge. But Ohio has halted voting today anyway, a scary development for the rule of law. Think of November. Might Donald Trump declare an emergency to delay elections, particularly if things don’t appear to be going his way? The Constitution says he can’t, but will his judges stop him? Or could they even if they tried?

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But back to Pine Bluff. Arkansas Blog visitor and election commissioner Stu Soffer twice walked out of the meeting in exasperation and finally departed with the declaration he was quitting. He was irked when Ted Davis, his arch-foe on the commission, insisted that the letter asking for a delay not include a paragraph about paying Soffer for some work he did on election prep.

Declared Soffer, according to the Democrat-Gazette account:

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“You all can do anything you want,” Soffer said. “I’ve had it. I’m leaving the Election Commission. I’m tired of the incompetence, I’m tired of the quibbling, I’m tired of the (expletive).”

I’m guessing the omitted word was bullshit. Stu?

UPDATE: See comments for Stu’s affirmation of my guess and more on the situation.

UPDATE II: The commission’s lawyer, Prosecutor Kyle Hunter, thinks trying to stop the election isn’t a good idea. He wrote the commission:

I’m in receipt of your letter regarding a court action to postpone the upcoming election. My advice at this time is to prepare for the election going forward as scheduled. There are 12 other counties with runoff elections and, as of now, all are proceeding with the elections and following the advice of the State Board and the Governor. In my opinion, it is legally prudent for Jefferson County to follow this course at this time.

Soffer responded:

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The prosecutor’s rationale is sound and he told me to make it happen.  I have the utmost respect for him and have issued appropriate direction to the election administrator who, hopefully, will move the other two commissioners to take action.  This is what I communicated to him and what qualifies as “necessary work that cannot be accomplished at a meeting” and expertise that no one else currently possesses.

Jefferson County is heading for a disaster unless immediate action is taken based on the fact the election will probably be as scheduled.  This is what has to occur:

1.  The election commission must agree on polling sites TODAY!  You have sound recommendations, share them PDQ.  Anticipate having to increase staffing at each in Ward 2.

2.  The election commission must agree on which precincts will vote at each polling site TODAY.  Your idea of multiple precinct voter registration books from closed polls at each site for each polling to be opened in each race is outstanding.  Precincts for each will be
JP 13:  510, 530, 3, 610, 620, 5, 900, 7, 950, 4, 11, 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 26, 27, 28
Ward 2:  201, 203, 204, 206, 202, 205, 207, 208, 209, 210, 212, 213, 211, 214, 215, 218. 216, 217, 219, 220,221, 222, 223, 224

3.  Once items 1 and 2 are decided, we need to go back into the ES&S portal and change precinct assignments for the polls that will be open and obtain new media.  Let ME deal with ES&S on the loaners.  We can mail ES&S media to cover the loaners.

4.  ONLY do L&A for early voting on Thursday.  ES&S will support us and expedite the new media.  I’ll call Aaron to see if we can just copy early voting flash disks and they redo the PEBs to match the precincts.

5.  The Notice of Election must be changed to reflect the new polling places and be published PDQ.  I have it on hold.

As usual, good job, thank you.