Locale's voter surge spurs call for probe

JONESBORO -- A prosecuting attorney has asked for a state police investigation into voter registration irregularities in a Greene County township that is seeking to ban alcohol sales.

Second Judicial Circuit Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro asked Capt. Mark Hollingsworth, criminal investigation division commander with the state police, to open an investigation into what he called "potential voter fraud" in Shady Grove township.

Voters there are asked to decide Tuesday whether to ban alcohol sales, which would stop beer and wine sales at the Old Country Store on U.S. 63 between Sedgwick and Bono.

Ellington said that in June, when the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board granted a permit to store owner Don Nicholas to sell alcohol, there were 71 registered voters in Shady Grove township. When early voting began Oct. 25, there were 103 registered voters, he said.

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"It does not strike me as a coincidence that the wet/dry issue for the township was being considered during the same time frame the township's population increased by 45 percent," Ellington wrote to Hollingsworth.

Ellington said he received information that several new registered voters gave addresses that were to camper trailers parked near the store. Several of the campers had no utilities, the prosecutor said. At least two voters listed the address of the store as their residences.

"If they're trying to cheat, that's a problem," Ellington said.

Lawrence County Clerk Tina Stowers said two people from Walnut Ridge had changed their voter registration addresses last week to the store but changed them back Tuesday to Walnut Ridge.

"Who's to say they don't live in the back of the store?" Stowers said.

A cashier at the Old Country Store said by telephone Thursday that she could not comment about the store or the allegations. She would not say if anyone lived in the store.

Another person who took the phone said he wouldn't comment either.

"I'll have to let you talk to Don," he said.

Nicholas did not return telephone messages left at the store Thursday.

The Arkansas secretary of state's office listed Bradley Hibbard of Walnut Ridge as a corporate owner of the Old Country Store. A telephone number listed for him was disconnected.

State Desk on 11/04/2016

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