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by Stan Morris | NEA Report
POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Following the uproar from registered voters Wednesday morning at the old courthouse, the Randolph County Clerk has made a few corrections – a few hundred, that is.
Going into Wednesday, 483 signatures were needed after 900 or so names had been rejected for a litany of reasons, many of which were absurd and judgment calls, as highlighted in Wednesday’s NEA Report story, while some were legitimate. In one example, two signatures clearly matched but were rejected because one, on the petition, was signed in haste.
Thursday, that number dropped in half – to 232 signatures needed – said Keep Revenue in Randolph County chairman Linda Bowlin. This means 251 registered voters signatures had been erroneously removed by Clerk Rhonda Blevins, or her office staff.
However, Bowlin and her group now have until the end of Saturday to find 232 registered voters in Randolph County to sign the petition or voters in November will not get to decide on the wet/dry issue.
It gets more complicated, though.
Bowlin told NEA Report on Thursday over 230 of the signatures thrown out – coincidentally close to the needed number for ratifying the petition – were thrown out over one rejected petition signature from the entire page. In other words, if the deputy clerk looked at a signature page and the first person’s name had an error in it, five more people might be on that page, but they would all be discarded.
Alternatively, petitioners could have made every registered voter sign on a new page, creating exponentially more work for the clerk’s office, but avoiding this odd methodology for disqualifying entire pages of voters. The group could have done this – but Bowlin said they did not think it was necessary.
Bowlin said the group had their signatures vetted from independent, legal experts to ensure the signatures were proper and qualifying. It was not believed at such time that entire pages would be dismissed over an individual error.
Facing difficult odds to get the work done in time, Bowlin was frantically rushing Thursday to get the needed 232 signatures, hopefully for her from people who had already signed and came back in. However, she said the group and its backers would take legal action if they miss the threshold for the petition Sunday on behalf of the registered voters who were rejected and never considered.
As for Blevins, she told the group meeting Wednesday she had made judgment calls based on legal advice she received but could not remember who gave her the advice. NEA Report sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Blevins’ office Thursday morning, requesting proof of any legal advice she received as well as any internal office communications related to counting petition signatures. She had not responded to the request as of late Thursday afternoon.
Featured photo by Stan Morris | NEA Report. Photo in body by Molly Hilburn | NEA Report. Photo depicts Blevins (left) and Bowlin at Wednesday’s meeting.