FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 4, 2020
Contact: Austin Bailey
For AR People Files Complaint Over Pulaski Election Shenanigans Commissioners Failed Voters, Must Be Held Accountable
LITTLE ROCK – After watching the venomous and protracted 2020 vote count in Pulaski County, For AR People this week filed a seven-part complaint with the Arkansas Board of Elections.
While we have full faith in the final results, getting there was an unnecessarily ugly and miserable process that threatens to turn people off to the democratic process. Some Pulaski voters who sent ballots in from home had to overcome outrageous obstacles to get their ballots counted. Still, some voters who did everything right found themselves disenfranchised.
When canvassing ballots, commissioners should focus on finding any fraud in the election process. Instead, Pulaski commissioners scrutinized and then disqualified ballots for clerical errors, even when it was clear the voters were genuine and simply made minor mistakes filling out their paperwork.
“Years ago we used to have literacy tests for people to vote. This felt similar,” said Camille Bennett, an attorney and the director of election protection with For AR People. “It certainly adversely affected those who were older and those who had less experience filling out legal documents.”
We fear Pulaski commissioners’ unnecessary disqualification of ballots will discourage people from voting in the future. We hope the state Board will shore up faith in the process by addressing Pulaski commissioners’ failings and making sure they’re better trained to handle their important role in the future.
“America’s democratic systems are thankfully strong. But it was clear from the beginning that commissioners didn’t have adequate training or knowledge to handle this immense job,” Bennett said. “Some of the commissioners’ actions gave the appearance of partisanship and impropriety. Voters deserve better.”
Our goal in filing this complaint is to safeguard voters’ faith in the democratic process and remind commissioners they are here to serve the public in a nonpartisan way. Complaints filed this week with the Arkansas Board of Elections are not yet available for public view. However, we are attaching here a copy of our complaint in its entirety, along with corresponding exhibits.
Among our concerns:
- Pulaski County Election Commission Chair Evelyn Gomez campaigned for candidate Carlton Wing in violation of Arkansas law.
- Republican commissioners repeatedly sought legal advice during public meetings from fellow Republicans Rep. Doug House and RPA Chairman Doyle Webb while ignoring the county attorney there to serve them in a nonpartisan way.
- Commissioners disqualified a key poll worker and the deputy director of elections without giving them an opportunity to respond to allegations against them.
- Chair Gomez drew all the names for ballot positions. Because the majority (if not all) draws resulted in Republican candidates’ names being first on the ballot, this gave the appearance of partisanship.
- Commissioners failed to appropriately document the reasons they rejected ballots.
- Chair Gomez handpicked specific people for certain election-related tasks, even though they weren’t necessarily trained or experienced.
- Commissioners waited until the night of Nov. 3 to begin canvassing ballots, even though Gov. Hutchinson issued a special order giving two weeks before Election Day to get a jump start on what promised to be a time-consuming process. Because of this decision, commissioners worked for nearly two weeks past Election Day to tally final counts.
- Meetings were unnecessarily long, one of them even lasting through the night despite there being no immediate deadline looming. Their schedule left staff exhausted and created an obstacle to public participation.
- The chair’s unrelenting rudeness toward election staff and voters created an adversarial atmosphere. This can only lead to mistrust and disdain for local government.
The state Board of Elections has the power to address these failures. Pulaski citizens need reassurance that election commissioners will respect their rights and count their votes.
About For AR People: Arkansas’s state motto is “The People Rule.” But for too long, many of our state politicians have been operating in the shadows, prioritizing interests of the wealthy and powerful over interests of the people. They put partisanship and deep-pocket campaign donors ahead of us, the voters.
This is our state. We are fighting back.