A St. Francis County circuit judge changed her ruling Friday and ordered the county's election commission to count votes in Tuesday's general election seeking to remove Hughes Mayor Grady Collum from office.
Judge Kathleen Bell granted a motion to intervene in a ruling she made earlier this week and stayed her own judgment pending appeals.
The ruling means Collum could lose his job as mayor of the town of 1,441 after votes are tallied Tuesday night.
Either way, until a court certifies that count, the results won't be fair, said Jesse Daggett, a Marianna attorney who represents Collum.
"The election commission shall count the votes in the recall election, but shall not certify the election results until this court or an appellate court directs that such certification is proper and should be done," Bell wrote in her ruling, which was filed at 4:15 p.m. Friday in St. Francis County Circuit Court.
Bell originally ruled Tuesday that St. Francis County Clerk Emily Holley certified names on a petition that sought to oust Collum after a 10-day deadline to do so, rendering the recall election void. She ordered then that votes not be counted.
A group seeking to remove Collum as mayor turned petitions in to Holley's office Aug. 9. Holley certified 308 names Aug. 22 -- three days after the deadline set by Arkansas Code Annotated 14-42-119 (1).
Bell held a conference call Friday with Daggett, Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long and Helena-West Helena attorney James Valley, who represents the St. Francis County Election Commission.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Daggett said Friday evening. "I am not sure how you can undo this. You have no idea of the impact this will have. Nobody will know the true voice of this vote."
Daggett said newspapers reported earlier this week that Bell ruled the election would not matter, and voters who cast early ballots may not have voted on the issue after reading the newspaper accounts.
"Either side can say that [Bell's original ruling] prejudiced the facts," he said.
Valley did not return a telephone message Friday evening.
Collum said Bell's ruling change troubles him.
"If I win, it means nothing other than I keep going," he said. "I may have to have a court say that I'm still the mayor. If I get thrown out, the other side will have to file something.
"If [Bell] hadn't done this, you'd know whether I am out or in after Tuesday."
State Desk on 11/05/2016