The State Board of Election Commissioners Wednesday followed up on lingering election complaints and whether or not to reimburse former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio for his campaign filing.
Earlier this month the Judicial Discipline and Disability Committee gave Maggio a lifetime ban from serving on the bench. Maggio admitted to posting inappropriate comments online, removing evidence, and leaking confidential adoption information among other violations. Election Commissioner Stu Soffer said Maggio didn’t provide an explanation for why he feels he should be reimbursed.
“If he did something wrong that perpetuated him dropping out of the race then I don’t think he should be entitled to his money back but I think that the applicant ought to tell us why he felt it necessary to drop out of the race,” said Soffer.
Soffer said the last two former candidates to request reimbursement received it. The state board elected to postpone a decision to allow Maggio time to give his reason for withdrawing. The amount in question totals $7,177.
Election commissioners spent some discussion time gearing up for November elections but lingering complaints dating back to the May primary remain. In Sebastian County, which contains the state’s second-largest city Fort Smith, the county election commission voted to move polling sites in advance of May’s primary. But there was a problem, any polling changes require the unanimous approval of the county election commission. But only a simple majority approved the move.
Since then the minority of commissioners asked for an opinion from the Attorney General’s office and the polling places in question have been relocated to their original sites. Soffer said it’s not enough to simply move on.
“If I rob a bank, the police catch me, and I give them back the money I don’t get let go. There was a violation of the law that shouldn’t have occurred. The law in my opinion, and I’m not a lawyer, is very abundantly clear. It was made over the objections of the minority election commissioner whose rights were trampled,” said Soffer.
Rather than dismiss the complaint as the State Board had originally intended to do, Soffer steered the board toward a vote issuing an official letter of caution.
Another complaint, arising in Scott County – in Western Arkansas – alleges the position of some candidates on the November ballot was illegally determined. This too is something Commissioner Soffer, noted for his participation in all areas of discussion, chimed in on.
“My phone started ringing off the hook at eight o’clock the morning after the drawing. I had three different phone calls and the allegation was that the drawing was rigged. That’s the short version. My advice was to report it to the State Board of Election Commissioners. I think it’s suspicious that the two Democrats, immediately there reaction was to resign rather than defend their actions. But again, I wasn’t there I don’t know,” said Soffer.
Chair Justin Clay noted at this juncture, so far away from the November election options are limited, but he said further action can be taken if the complaint is re-filed within 30 days of the election. At that time the state board will have different set of options to respond to the complaint.. In the meantime, complainants from Scott County are requesting election monitors. Some on the state board voiced support for sending monitors but a concern over a shortage of personnel postponed that decision. State Commissioner Rhonda Cole was among those worried about dispersing a limited number of monitors with nearly 40 days left until the election.
“Mr. Clay has sent out e-mails to the county clerks, the election commissioners, the election coordinators asking for recommendations for election monitors because they’re struggling at state board to be able to get election monitors trained to get enough people out there on election day,” said Cole.
With November elections drawing ever-closer the state board can look forward to resolving a myriad of election challenges and irregularities. Those problems are in addition to obstacles posed by the recently enacted Voter ID law that resulted in over 1000 absentee ballots to be disqualified in May.