Arkansas law bars simultaneous election board participation

By: 
The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed legislation that bars Arkansas residents from simultaneously serving as a member of the state Board of Election Commissioners and a county election commission.

Hutchinson signed the measure Thursday that prohibits a member of the state Board of Election Commissioners or a county election commissioner from serving as a poll worker or watcher on behalf of an individual candidate, political party or ballot initiative, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2o5MUTn ) reported.

Rep. Vivian Flowers, a Pine Bluff Democrat, is the bill's author. She said the idea for the bill came from her conversation with advocates of fair elections.

Republican Stu Soffer, who serves on the state Board of Election Commissioners and the Jefferson County Election Commission, said he plans to continue serving on both boards for the time being.

Soffer said he was advised by attorneys that the bill isn't retroactive and doesn't have an emergency clause. He said he can continue serving on both boards until his two-year term on the Jefferson County commission ends in December 2018. He said his four-year term on the state board will expire in 2020.

"I am an incumbent, and I'm going to serve out both of my terms," Soffer said.

State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said the decision to resign will be Soffer's to make.

"I appreciate the work of Mr. Soffer and expect that he will continue to serve on the state Board of Election Commissioners," said Webb, who also is an attorney.

The bill was approved by a 72-9 vote in the House and 31-3 in the Senate. It will become effective near the end of July.

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