Election official says no conflict with state work

Reed: Job tweaks in place

At his first meeting as a permanent Pulaski County election commissioner Friday, Alex Reed heard fellow Commissioner Chris Burks express his dismay for voting-related rules being proposed by the secretary of state’s office, Reed’s employer.

“What I do here is independent of my job,” Reed said after the meeting.

Reed, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, was elected March 13 by the Pulaski County Republican Committee to become the organization’s permanent replacement for Phil Wyrick, who stepped down after filing to run for Pulaski County judge.

Burks is interested in establishing a center open to all voters on election days that could help alleviate crowding at precincts.

However, rules recently drafted by the secretary of state’s office would require a secure wireless connection at such voting centers, Burks said. In Pulaski County, that would mean establishing secure wireless connections at more than 100 precincts to enable elections workers to update the voting center’s electronic polling lists - an expensive proposition.

During the meeting Friday, Reed did not express any opinion about Burks’ concerns that the drafted rules could make establishing a voting center more difficult in Pulaski County. He said later that he wasn’t that familiar with the issue.

Reed had served in a temporary capacity for several meetings before Friday. Pulaski County Attorney Karla Burnett said last week that she did not believe Reed’s association with the secretary of state’s office disqualified him from serving as an election commissioner.

He said his duties to distribute results on election nights for the secretary of state’s office will be partially taken over by another employee and will not affect his requirement to be present for elections in Pulaski County those same nights.

Reed said Hill Township Constable Rick Scott and former Pulaski County justice of the peace candidate Kevin Gorman also were vying for the spot, which pays $100 per meeting. Voice mails left on committee Chairman Vicky Arellanes’ direct phone line and emails sent to the committee’s main email account asking about its decision process were not returned this week.

Reed said his service on the commission is not awkward or a conflict of interest.

He was named as a plaintiff last week in the Pulaski County Election Commission’s suit against the state Board of Election Commissioners, a board whose chairman is Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The lawsuit claims the state board overstepped its legal authority by creating rules allowing absentee voters to submit the identification required by the state’s new voter identification law after ballots are received.

Reed did not vote in the commission’s initial decision to sue the state board because the Pulaski County Republican Committee had not decided to send anyone as a fill-in for Wyrick, who had stepped down two days earlier.

The commission consists of three representatives, and the vote was 2-0. The other two representatives are appointees of the Pulaski County Democratic Committee, which gets two commissioners because of the Democratic majority in statewide constitutional offices.

In other business Friday, the commission approved the results of the March 11 Pulaski Technical College special millage election.

Complete and certified results for the millage elections are:

For . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3,470

Against . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10,244

Only 10 extra ballots were counted by noon Monday, the deadline for voters casting provisional ballots. One was a military absentee ballot, and the other nine were voters who were turning in the approved form of photo identification after not providing it when they voted in person on election day.

Commission Director Bryan Poe said 15 provisional ballots had to be thrown out because voters did not return to complete them.

The county also did not count 76 absentee ballots that were submitted without identification and were not allowed to be cast as provisional ballots. The decision to not count them went along with recommendations from the state attorney general’s office but defied the new rules established by the state Board of Election Commissioners.

Arkansas, Pages 10 on 03/22/2014