SEBASTIAN COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In a legal opinion hand-delivered to the Sebastian County Clerk on September 12, Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Shue of the 12th Judicial District stated that the county’s Election Commission Chairman is ineligible to vote following a 2003 felony conviction.
Jason Andrew Vineyard, 43, entered a guilty plea to a charge of writing a hot check, and part of the plea agreement stated that he would make restitution in the amount of $20,055. The September 12 letter to the Sebastian County Clerk noted that it is “undisputed that those monies have not been paid in full.”
“We need to make sure that our election commissioners are eligible to hold that position because it’s a very important position in our election system,” said Chris Powell, spokesperson for the Arkansas Secretary of State office.
The opinion cites Arkansas Constitution Amendment 51, which was passed in 1964:
Section 11, ‘Cancellation of Registration’ reads, in pertinent part, as follows: (a) It shall be the duty of the permanent registrar to cancel the registration of voters who have been convicted of felonies and have not discharged their sentence of been pardoned.Arkansas Constiution Amedment 51, 1964
“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 of the County Clerk did not cancel his voter registration back in 2003,” the opinion adds. Public voter records show that Vineyard has voted in the past five state general elections.
“We’re not sure really how that fell through the cracks in the system,” said Powell. “We get updates from the Arkansas Crime Information Center every month of felons and we pass those along to counties.”
He said it’s the job of the county to monitor people’s voting eligibility, and remove them from the voter rolls when they become ineligible.
The Sebastian County website states that the Board of Election Commissioners is “an independent unit of county government tasked with administering, conducting and tabulating all Sebastian County elections in conjunction with state and federal election laws.” Vineyard is the Chairman of the Election Commission.
The site also says that “county election commissioners are recommended by their political party and appointed by the State Board of Election Commissioners using the ratio of two majority party members to one minority party member.”
Powell said the timing of this situation isn’t good.
“We’re coming up on a November election pretty quickly, and you have to have a lot of training to go through an understanding of the process to be an Election Commissioner,” he said.
Sebastian County Election Commission Coordinator Meghan Hassler said that filed minutes show that the first meeting Vineyard attended was March 14, when he was elected Chairman.
The Sebastian County Clerk confirmed on September 12 that Vineyard has been removed from the county’s voter rolls, which also nullifies his position on the election commission.
Since the Republican Party is the majority party in Arkansas, party committees in each county are responsible for appointing two of the three election commissioners.
KNWA/FOX24 talked with Larry Bishop, Chair of the Sebastian County Republican Committee, on Monday. He called it an unfortunate situation, and said that on paper at the time, Vineyard qualified for the position to their knowledge. Bishop wished the best for Vineyard moving forward, and said they have started the search to appoint a new commissioner.
KNWA/FOX24 also reached out to Vineyard, but did not hear back.