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Voter Lawsuit Filed in Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln, Bill Halter Senate Runoff

4 years ago
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A lawsuit on behalf of three Arkansas voters against the Garland County Election Commission was filed late Tuesday afternoon, adding a dramatic twist to Tuesday's runoff between incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Governor Bill Halter for the Democratic Senate nomination.

The lawsuit, filed by Hot Springs attorney Ben Hooten, states that the commission intentionally scheduled only two polling sites for "the purpose of disenfranchising " minority, elderly, poor and disabled voters in the county. It also says that "the greater part of the voting electorate are unable to find or reach" the polling places and are "thereby deprived of their right to vote and were disenfranchised."

"They've tried this before," Hooten said in an interview with Politics Daily. "They tried it in 2008 and I fled suit then. It was a special election on bonds that year, but they closed all the polls citywide, but one."
The suit filed Tuesday asks the court to stop the certification of the votes and challenges the validity of the runoff election. Once votes are certified in Arkansas, 10 days after an election, it is almost impossible to challenge them.

The lawsuit may be the first in a string of possible protests in Garland County, a populous area 55 miles from Little Rock that both the Lincoln and Halter campaigns have focused on with get-out-the-vote efforts.

County election officials decided to open only two polling spots for Tuesday's runoff instead of the 41 precincts that were open for the May 18 primary. The action was to save money, the county election commissioner said, but the state pays for primary and runoff elections.

A notice was supposed to be mailed by the county clerk under the direction of the county election commission to registered voters within 15 days of the election. That did not happen in Garland County.
Traffic and parking problems earlier in the day led to police showing up to control the congestion at the downtown polling spot. That location, which is next to the election commission, had waits of up to 30 minutes in late afternoon. That was in contrast to precincts in Little Rock where voters walked in and cast their ballots in less than 10 minutes.
In the primary on May 18, Lincoln won 44.5 percent of the vote to Halter's 42.5 percent. A third candidate, D.C. Morrison, won 13 percent. In Garland County, Halter received 5,425 votes to Lincoln's 4,951 -- a difference of only 474.
The Arkansas Senate race has been one of the most watched in the country. Outside interest groups -- unions and progressive groups for Halter, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and third party groups such as Americans for Job Security for Lincoln -- have spent millions on behalf of their respective candidates. The winner faces Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman in the general election.
If Tuesday night's results are narrow, Halter or Lincoln could call for a recount or file lawsuits. Three state runoff races and one Garland County runoff contest are also on the county ballot. Any of those candidates who loose by a thin margin could also file a court challenge to overturn the results.
According to the Secretary of State's office, Arkansas is one of the few remaining states to rely primarily on volunteers to administer elections that have become "increasingly time-consuming and technologically complex with the passage of federal mandates."
Last year, a bill was introduced in the legislature that would have required each county to hire an election coordinator. That bill was withdrawn because county officials were worried about tapping their budgets to pay for someone to oversee elections.
In Garland County, the commission is made is up of three people – the Democratic Party chair, the Republican Party county chair and a third member from the majority party – in this case, the Democratic Party.
The county does not have a paid election coordinator.

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cuddlebaer

I think that Ben Hooten is correct in his lawsuit top stop the certification. When I first read that all of the polls were tpo be closed but 2 I knew that the law was being violated. The county eclection supervisor is guilty of a felony, and if found guilty will most likely lose his job, and the right to vote for the rest of his life. I would like to know if Senator Blanche Lincoln applied pressure to have the polls closed.

June 11 2010 at 2:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
wsjmwtobin

This level of corruption is seen only in the Third World. Progressives, of course, will be marshalled into supporting Lincoln because the future of the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights depends on her survival. Perhaps, Obama can offer Halter an ambassadorship. Halter should hold out for Tahiti. What a sham!

June 09 2010 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
crownsplitta

she only won because they closed 40 out of 42 polling places in Halters best precincts. Just a perfect case of the corporate canidate playing dirty pool to win power. Democrats acting like republicans fueled by corporate greed and the people of the state keeping up their track record of electing the very worst canidate and against their own best interest.

June 09 2010 at 7:05 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
greatqb44

Lincoln won....once again we see truly the worst pollster out there is kos/r2000....they blew yet another one

June 08 2010 at 11:18 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rshaha8773

I get a kick outa the Left suddenly finding religion i.e. Polosi asking priests to promote Illegal amnesty from the pulpit. Arn't these the same people that called the right bible thumping? Next the left will be gun totting also. But of course only till after the election,then they'll return to business as usual.

June 08 2010 at 10:43 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rshaha8773's comment
cjlacroix

Honey, just because you're bible thumping , doesn't mean you are Christian. One thing our founding fathers had was reflection. Maybe if you would reflect on Christian principles ( and actually the human principles of most religions - to care for the sick is just one) you might see that speaking out for injustice is quite Christian. And we don't get to pick and choose injustices. = = = .

June 09 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pamg1922

This story is indicative of this nation's need for the advocacy of a strong third party and I certainly don't mean the fake tea party. When will we have statesmen and/or stateswoman run for office? This is the price we pay for allowing our government to be run by corporations abd special interest. Until and unless we the people are prepared to listen to all ideas and give up blind loyalty to political parties, we will not be able to heal our country. May we have the strength and intelligence to see the error of our ways and employ solutions instead of whole sale complaining.

June 08 2010 at 9:53 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply

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