An Arkansas election commissioner has been accused of intimidating and harassing voters after he freaked out on Oct. 24 while he was serving as a poll watcher. I know this is going to shock you, but it turns out he was a Republican. (Insert sarcastic gasp here.)
Victor Johnson, a Pine Bluff resident, and Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson (no relation) have filed a lawsuit against Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioner Stu Soffer. According to Chris Burks, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Soffer “interfered and intimidated voters,” preventing them from casting their ballots.
Mr. Soffer stood in the doorway of the early-voting location and told voters to shut up and go home,” Burks said. “This is deeply troubling to the voters of Jefferson County and also to the election administrators whose job it is to administer the elections free of fear and intimidation.”
Soffer has since resigned as a poll watcher so the Republican Party of Arkansas, who is also named as a defendant in the suit, is convinced there is no point to the complaint.
“We believe this matter is moot and their action was unnecessary,” Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement. “The poll watcher authorization was surrendered last week by Mr. Soffer.”
In an affidavit, Victor Johnson said that he got to the polls at about one p.m. on Oct. 24 with the intention of voting early. He was waiting in line to vote when he saw Soffer and another man begin to herd voters around to speak with a television crew. Eventually, a county sheriff made the other man leave “since he was not voting, had no legitimate business in the polling location and was causing a disruption.”
Burks said that Soffer then totally lost his shit. He stood in the doorway screaming at voters to “shut up and go home,” without ever giving an explanation as to why he wanted them to leave.
As a result of the disruption and confusion caused by Stu Soffer and other Republicans — I was not able to cast my ballot that day,” Victor Johnson said in the affidavit.
Soffer’s freak out at the polls is just the most recent in “a long line of complaints” that have been filed against him. In April, Soffer said he felt threatened by former Election Commission member Ted Davis, so he pulled out a gun in the middle of a meeting. Democratic leaders called for his removal, but somehow, Webb still thought it would be a good idea to appoint him to a second four-year term in June.
Burks said that he isn’t sure how many people were unable to vote that day because of Soffer’s outburst or how many votes he challenged.
“We don’t think it’s too many,” he said. “We think that we caught and stopped this soon after it happened, but it is deeply concerning to us that voters were challenged.”
The plaintiffs are requesting that Soffer be removed as a poll watcher and that every vote he challenged be counted.
Burks pointed out that election commissioners are prohibited from participating in any type of partisan activity. When Soffer, who is an election commissioner, “challenges voters as he did last Monday or prevents them from voting or forces them to vote a provisional ballot, he is in effect acting as a partisan benefiting certain campaigns.”
“But this is not about one individual,” Burks said. “It’s about the principle that when you count votes, you should not also be challenging votes.”
Sadly, this may just be a preview of the type of insanity that is to come on Tuesday.
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Featured image via KATV