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Burks (foreground) and Charles at today's press conference
At a press conference this morning in the State Capitol rotunda, Democratic Party of Arkansas General Counsel Chris Burks, flanked by Arkansas NAACP president Dale Charles, answered questions about a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court that alleges a conflict of interest in the case of a Republican Jefferson County Election Commissioner who had filed to act as a poll watcher there. Burks also claimed that the voter who filed the lawsuit was intimidated in a polling place there.
The lawsuit — which you can read here — was filed yesterday on behalf of Jefferson County voter Victor Johnson and Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson (who Burks said is unrelated to Victor Johnson) against the Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners, the Republican Party, and Stu Soffer, who is the Jefferson County Election Commissioner who had filed to act as a poll watcher. While the lawsuit concerns itself with the legality and alleged conflict of interest of an election commissioner simultaneously working as a poll watcher, Burks also claimed today that Victor Johnson was told to "shut up and go home" by Soffer after getting in an argument with Soffer while Johnson was trying to early vote at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Burks also claimed Soffer "stood in the doorway" of the polling place at one point to prevent voters from entering. Burks did not reveal the initial reason for the argument between Johnson and Soffer.
The lawsuit calls for an order forbidding Soffer and any other Jefferson County election commissioner from serving as poll watchers in Jefferson County, and asks that any votes challenged by a member of the Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners at the polls be counted as valid. Burks said today that comments by a person purporting to be Soffer in reply to a previous post about the lawsuit on the Arkansas Blog have been saved and will be used as evidence if the case goes to court. Burks said he hopes that with the election fast approaching, the case can be brought to a speedy resolution.
While Burks said there were no reports Soffer was carrying a gun at the time at the incident in the polling place, he did mention today that Soffer is known to carry a gun, and that Victor Johnson felt intimidated by that during the alleged incident with Soffer. It's a reference to an incident last April in which Soffer, during an argument with Democratic Jefferson County Election Commissioner Ted Davis on the street following the sudden adjournment of a scheduled meeting, pulled a derringer pistol from his pocket and held it in his hand while in a heated exchange with Davis. Soffer later said he did so because he "feared for his life," showing police who responded a copy of his concealed carry permit. Video of the incident is seen below.