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PINE BLUFF -- At least one campaign in Tuesday's runoff elections in Jefferson County had access to voting machines and voting records at the Jefferson County Courthouse after hours Monday evening, according to the election commission chairman.

Michael Adam, chairman of the Jefferson County Election Commission, called for Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter to review courthouse surveillance footage after it was reported that workers for Jefferson County judge candidate Henry "Hank" Wilkins IV's campaign "went places in the courthouse they weren't supposed to be."

Adam said it wasn't clear whether the workers would have been able to manipulate voting records, but he said they could have accessed voter sign-in sheets and voting machines.

Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson let Wilkins' campaigners in the courthouse Friday night, Adam added.

Hunter did not return a message left at his office Tuesday afternoon.

Wilkins accused Adam of stirring controversy and he said his staff members were registered poll watchers.

"He is the source of all this controversy," Wilkins said. "I hope he recognizes the importance of working together with everyone in the community, not just the few people he happens to be friends with."

Jefferson County held Democratic runoff elections Tuesday for the offices of Pine Bluff mayor and Jefferson County judge. Wilkins faced incumbent Jefferson County Judge Dutch King, and current Mayor Debe Hollingsworth faced Shirley Washington in the runoffs.

Wilkins defeated King in the county judge race, and Washington defeated Hollingsworth in the mayoral race, according to unofficial results.

Both runoffs were held because no candidate for either position secured the necessary 50 percent vote in their respective March 1 primaries. Tuesday's runoffs decided the next Jefferson County judge and Pine Bluff mayor because no Republicans filed for either position.

Adam said there were also disruptions involving poll watchers at several polling sites Tuesday. Poll watchers for Washington and Wilkins caused the disruptions, according to Adam.

"It appears those two campaigns are working together," he said.

The poll watchers were given access to voting areas where they weren't allowed after they presented "official looking" documents to election workers, Adam said. He said one election worker was suspended after candidate representatives were given access to restricted areas.

Wilkins also rebutted Adam's accusations regarding poll watchers at the polling sites, saying the polls were closed when his registered poll watchers entered the voting areas. He said Hunter, the prosecutor, had already determined his poll watchers were within their rights.

Washington said her campaign did nothing illegal to her knowledge. She said she and Wilkins worked together to strategically position poll watchers to ensure the election was run correctly.

"I don't know anything about anything illegal," she said. "You'll have to talk to Hank about that."

Adam said Pine Bluff police were called to one polling location, but the poll watchers had left before they arrived.

Wilkins and the Jefferson County Election Commission have been in and out of court in recent weeks.

Wilkins sought a temporary restraining order against the commission because of its handling of voting materials. Wilkins withdrew the request Monday after it was determined no voting materials were mishandled.

Metro on 03/23/2016

Print Headline: Election chief urges inquiry at courthouse


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