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Pulaski County Election Commission settles lawsuit with poll worker

Man claimed violation of speech rights by Andy Davis | September 27, 2022 at 7:13 a.m.
Supporters of a candidate cavort across the street from a polling place in Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, March 3, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.)

The Pulaski County Board of Election Commissioners on Monday agreed to settle a lawsuit by a poll worker who claimed the board refused to appoint him to work during a special election because of his opposition to the state's voter ID law.

Barry Haas said in the lawsuit, filed in January in federal court in Little Rock, that the board violated his free speech rights at a Sept. 7, 2021, meeting when it declined to appoint him to work at a special sales tax election in Little Rock.

He said his name was struck from a list of potential workers in response to objections raised by then-Chairman Kristi Stahr.

At the meeting, Stahr said she was "making an objection to someone on the list who refuses to follow the law on voter ID."

"It's not appropriate to appoint a poll worker who won't uphold the Constitution," Stahr said at the 2021 meeting.

Asked by another commissioner about the basis for the accusation, Stahr said she had seen claims by Haas on social media indicating that he would not enforce the voter ID law.

In the suit, Haas, the plaintiff in separate lawsuits that have challenged the state's voter ID requirements, said he does not "operate or maintain" social media and has never said he would not uphold Arkansas' laws.

He said he has posted comments to the Arkansas Times blog but not about refusing to comply with the voter ID law.

Under the settlement proposed by Haas, the board would allow Haas to speak at a meeting, with his name listed on the agenda, and provide Stahr notice of the meeting.

The commission also would make a statement for the record describing Stahr's objections to Haas being certified as a poll worker.

The statement would acknowledge no evidence was ever uncovered that Haas had made statements indicating he would not follow the voter ID law, and it would note that Haas has been appointed as a poll worker for elections after the special election in September 2021.

Current Chairman David Scott would meet with Haas about the Sept. 7, 2021, board meeting and the board's decision to strike Haas from the list of poll workers. The board would also agree to provide current and incoming commissioners with training on the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the federal law allowing people to sue for civil rights violations.

The board also would pay Haas' court costs, not including attorney's fees.

Brett Taylor of Little Rock, one of the attorneys representing the commission in the case, said the money to pay the costs would come from the Association of Arkansas Counties' risk management fund.

Scott and commissioners Sydney Rasch and Michael Massucco voted unanimously to approve the settlement, authorizing Taylor to prepare the settlement documents and work with Haas' attorney to carry out the settlement's terms.

Print Headline: Panel to work out poll worker lawsuit


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