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Sebastian County election chairman’s voting power and position stripped after felony conviction comes to light

by Thomas Saccente | September 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A roll of stickers awaiting distribution to early voters sits on a table at the check-in station at the Pulaski County Courthouse Annex in Little Rock.

FORT SMITH -- Sebastian County's prosecuting attorney determined the chairman of the county Election Commission ineligible to vote Monday due to a felony conviction, barring him from service.

Prosecutor Dan Shue wrote in a legal opinion to County Clerk Sharon Brooks on Monday it's her duty to cancel Jason Andrew Vineyard's voter registration. Brooks said Vineyard, 43, is no longer an active voter in the county as of Monday.

A person has to be a qualified elector of Arkansas to serve on an election commission, according to the 2020 edition of the County Board of Election Commissioners Procedures Manual prepared by the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners. The manual states under the Arkansas Constitution, a qualified elector can't have been convicted of a felony without their sentence having been discharged or pardoned.

The county's Republican Committee removed Vineyard from the commission Monday. Larry Bishop, chairman of the committee, said Monday the committee will interview interested individuals to find a qualified replacement.

Vineyard pleaded guilty to one count of felony overdraft on July 11, 2003, according to Shue. The county Circuit Court suspended the imposition of Vineyard's sentence for a 10-year period with the condition of good behavior and that Vineyard pay $20,055 in restitution, as well as a $500 fine and $150 in court costs.

However, Shue said Vineyard has yet to pay the obligation in full. This means Vineyard hasn't satisfied the terms of his sentence and, by extension, hasn't discharged his sentence. Shue noted Vineyard hasn't been pardoned either.

"For some yet to be determined reason, the Circuit Clerk (at that time) either failed to notify the County Clerk (at that time) of this conviction in 2003 or the County Clerk did not cancel his voter registration back in 2003," Shue wrote.

Amendment 51 of the Arkansas Constitution states a county's permanent registrar, meaning County Clerk, has the duty to cancel the registration of voters who have been convicted of felonies and haven't either discharged their sentence or been pardoned, according to Shue.

Shue said the amendment also outlines that every county Circuit Clerk has to promptly notify the County Clerk whenever someone who's a resident of the County Clerk's jurisdiction has been convicted of a felony. A convicted felon who wants to register to vote has to provide the County Clerk a certified copy of their original judgement and proof from the appropriate probation office they have been discharged from probation, paid all fees and satisfied all terms of their sentence.

Jail records show Vineyard was arrested in 2020 after a petition to revoke was issued over nonpayment of restitution and court fines related to his suspended sentence. However, court records show the petition was withdrawn due to substantial payments being made.

Voter history records show Vineyard has voted in every major election since his conviction.

Vineyard didn't respond to a phone call and text message requesting comment Monday.

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